Federal prosecutors have said there’s a tattoo on the left bicep of Labar “Bro Man” Spann that depicts the Grim Reaper wielding a smoking firearm.
He once boasted he was “born and raised” in the 3900 block of West Lexington Street, which became the heart of his notorious street gang’s drug operation. Authorities say Spann added, “If you ain’t off the 3900 block, f--- you.”
Spann has also been known to answer his phone, “chief of the Four Corner Hustlers,” authorities say, declaring himself the head of a gang tied to at least nine murders since 2000, including the 2003 killing of Latin Kings boss Rudy “Kato” Rangel.
Now, four years after a sweeping racketeering indictment connected Spann to six of those murders — including Rangel’s — Spann faces trial starting with jury selection this week in what is perhaps the most significant street-gang trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse since 2016.
Spann’s defense attorneys did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Court officials have spent years planning for what had been expected to be a three-defendant trial. But Tremayne “Trigga” Thompson and Juhwun Foster wound up pleading guilty in July to their roles in the West Side gang. By doing so, they left Spann alone to face the jury.
Still, prosecutors have said they expect Spann’s trial to last until mid-November, and they say subpoenas have been served to witnesses all over the country. The trial will play out under COVID-19 protocols that will restrict members of the public and the media to an overflow courtroom, where video of the trial will be streamed online.
Prosecutors also asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin in August to empanel an anonymous jury, noting that the Four Corner Hustlers “continue to operate today” and “have the capacity to harm jurors demonstrated by their alleged harm of others including witnesses.”
Spann uses a wheelchair and was paralyzed in a 1999 shooting, records show. His trial will play out as Chicago again grapples with a particularly violent year — reminiscent of the 2016 racketeering trial of the Hobos street gang.
A court filing last month alleged that Spann, who has been held in the Livingston County Jail, was caught on recorded calls trying to interfere with his co-defendants’ guilty pleas and discussing who had been subpoenaed by the feds, saying, “I’m going to use them as my witnesses” and “I don’t give a f---, I’m already a step ahead of them.”
Spann also allegedly laughed when one witness told him the witness was “going to f--- the trial up.”
The purported gang leader already faces a likely federal prison sentence of five or six years after he pleaded guilty in 2017 to illegal gun possession, drug and obstruction of justice charges in a separate case.
Prosecutors have identified Spann as the leader of the Four Corner Hustlers, which they’ve described as a group of West Side robbers, drug dealers and killers whose crimes date back to the mid-1990s.
The gang’s prosecution features links to other high-profile cases. For example, the feds sought last month to bar any mention at Spann’s trial of former Chicago Police Sgt. Xavier Elizondo, who helped secure wiretaps against the gang. Elizondo was convicted of multiple federal corruption counts in 2019 and is now serving a sentence of more than seven years at a high-security U.S. penitentiary in Louisiana, records show.
Spann’s trial also features a connection to the prosecution of the Sinaloa drug cartel once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, who is now serving a life sentence in federal prison. That’s because Rangel, the late Latin Kings boss listed as one of Spann’s victims, had once been married to Valerie Gaytan, the daughter of a Chicago cop.
After Rangel’s death, Gaytan took up with Margarito Flores, one of the twin Chicago drug dealers who famously cooperated with the feds against “El Chapo.” Gaytan now faces federal charges of her own with Vivianna Lopez, the wife of Margarito’s brother Pedro. They are accused in a money-laundering conspiracy that allegedly began with the Flores’ surrender in December 2008.
Rangel was gunned down at a West Side barbershop in front of multiple witnesses on June 4, 2003, in what records have suggested was a murder-for-hire after Rangel stole 150 kilos of cocaine. His death inspired the rapper DMX to record a tribute titled, “A ‘Yo Kato.”
Spann’s attorneys have argued that the alleged contract on Rangel had nothing to do with the Four Corner Hustlers. But authorities say Spann also agreed to Rangel’s killing as a way of asserting his authority on the West Side.