Lawyers for a West Side gang boss are asking a federal judge to throw out a murder charge, arguing Labar “Bro Man” Spann was acquitted of the same charge in state court more than a decade ago.
The murder in question is that of Rudy “Kato” Rangel Jr., who was a leader of the Latin Kings when he was fatally shot inside a barbershop in June 2003.
Months after the shooting, Spann and three other men — Martise Nunnery, Marcus Ware and Donnell Simmons — were charged by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office with hatching a plan to rob and kill Rangel, who traveled with a bodyguard and often sported hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of flashy jewelry.
Nunnery, Ware and Simmons, the shooter, were found guilty, though Spann was acquitted in 2008.
Spann, 41, was one of 11 members of the Four Corner Hustlers indicted in a sweeping racketeering conspiracy in 2017. Most of his co-defendants have pleaded guilty or agreed to cooperate with prosecutors; Spann and two others — Tremayne Thompson and Juhwun Foster — are slated to face trial in September 2021.
Rangel’s murder was one of six killings federal prosecutors initially linked to the gang. Last year, prosecutors accused the gang of taking part in three more murders in 2012.
Spann’s lawyers now contend trying him in federal court for Rangel’s murder amounts to double jeopardy because federal authorities were heavily involved in the initial murder investigation, as well as the earlier decision to prosecute Spann in state court.
“It is plain that the federal government and the state of Illinois worked hand in glove and switched between federal and state prosecutions so frequently and strategically that they were operating in essence as a single prosecutor pursuing Defendant Labar Spann,” his attorneys wrote in a recent motion.
“Such overwhelming redundancies prove a classic case of the type of harassment of defendant that the double jeopardy clause was designed to condemn and proscribe.”
No new evidence was developed in the Rangel investigation, and federal prosecutors will call the same witnesses that state prosecutors relied upon, Spann’s lawyers say.
Both a representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Rangel’s mother declined to comment. It’s unclear when U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin will rule on the motion.
After Spann was indicted in 2017, federal prosecutors weighed whether pursue the death penalty against him, Foster and Thompson. Last April, Attorney General Bill Barr instructed prosecutors in the case to not go after the death penalty.
Matthew McQuaid, one of Spann’s lawyers, said the motion to dismiss the Rangel murder was delayed because the prospect of defending a death penalty case took priority.
“Until the time that the Justice Department approves the pursuit of the death penalty, everyone’s focus is on that,” McQuaid said.
Spann’s lawyers have also filed a motion to suppress wiretap evidence in the case that was collected by Xavier Elizondo, a former CPD sergeant who was recently sentenced to seven years in prison after he was convicted of several corruption charges.
Between late 2012 and early 2013, investigators applied for and were granted five wiretaps on phones used by Spann, court records show. Elizondo filed affidavits in four of those wiretap applications, though prosecutors have said Elizondo wasn’t engaged in any illegal conduct at the time.
Spann’s lawyers also want prosecutors to turn over documents related to a witness whose cooperation was crucial to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s prosecution of Ware, Nunnery, Simmons and Spann.
That man — at the time a member of the Vice Lords on the West Side — was recruited by police after he was arrested in 2003. Once he was interviewed, authorities realized he had knowledge of dozens of unsolved murders and the man agreed to wear a wire in exchange for a lighter sentence.