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UNITED STATES v. FORT
April 3, 1996
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
JEFF FORT, LEON McANDERSON, ROOSEVELT HAWKINS, ALAN KNOX, REICO CRANSHAW, and MELVIN MAYES, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE
CHARLES R. NORGLE, SR., District Judge:
Before the court is the motion of Defendant Melvin Mayes requesting that, because of his citizenship of the Republic of New Afrika, he be recognized as a political prisoner. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.
Mayes was one of many indicted in 1986 for his connection with the former Chicago El Rukn street gang. Mayes bolted from the jurisdiction in 1986; a warrant was issued for his arrest. While Mayes was at large, Trammel Davis, one of Mayes' co-defendants, pleaded guilty and testified on behalf of the government. Mayes' other co-defendants, including the El Rukn leader Jeff Fort, proceeded to a jury trial which lasted from October 7, 1987, to November 24, 1987. Mayes was arrested on the 1986 warrant in 1995 and has pleaded "not guilty" to all counts in the indictment.
To better understand Defendant's reference to political considerations, one need refer to the facts underlying the charges against him.
The following appeared in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion deciding the appeals of the other defendants:
The El Rukns are a Chicago street gang with slightly over 100 members. The gang began in the 1960's as the Blackstone Rangers. In the 1970's, they were known as the Black P Stone Nation. In the 1980's, Jeff Fort became the undisputed leader of the gang and the organization was renamed the El Rukns, meaning "cornerstone." The El Rukns, under Fort, became a carefully structured enterprise. Fort, the "Imam", sat at the top of the hierarchy. Beneath him in descending rank were "generals," "Officer Muftis," "ambassadors," and "soldiers" or "Els." Under Fort's leadership, the El Rukns also embraced certain elements of the Black Muslim faith. Their headquarters at 3947 South Drexel was known as the "Mosque," and occasional religious services, educational classes and social gatherings were held there.
In 1984, Jeff Fort began serving a lengthy sentence at the Federal Correctional Institute in Bastrop, Texas. Despite this incarceration, Fort remained the leader and mastermind of the El Rukns. Fort maintained his control over the organization via extensive telephone conversations from Bastrop to the Chicago Headquarters. In order to frustrate federal authorities who were monitoring and recording these conversations, Fort and his chief "general," Melvin Mayes, developed a complex code for use during these conversations.
While in prison in Bastrop, Fort learned that Louis Farrakhan had received $ 5 million from the Libyan government. Fort determined that at those wages, the El Rukns should become employees of the Libyans as well. Fort decided to offer the services of the El Rukns to the Libyans. According to Fort's plan, the El Rukns would offer to perform terrorist activities within the United States in return for $ 1 million a year from the Libyan government. On March 11, 1986, El Rukn members Leon McAnderson and Reico Cranshaw, along with Charles Knox (an unindicted co-conspirator), travelled to Libya to meet with military officials of the Libyan government. At these meetings, Cranshaw and McAnderson presented the El Rukns' offer. Fort was informed of this meeting and began planning a way to impress the Libyans and to demonstrate the depth of the El Rukns' commitment to the enterprise. In various conversations, Fort, McAnderson, Cranshaw and others discussed destroying a government building, planting a bomb, blowing up an airplane, killing a Milwaukee alderman, or simply committing "a killing here and a killing there" to get the Libyans' attention. Ultimately, Fort decided that it would be more simple to take credit for other people's acts of violence. Thus, a clipping file was established to keep track of particularly violent, but as yet unsolved, crimes throughout the United States. The El Rukns would then send this file to the Libyans and take credit for the mayhem. Fort considered this effort to be "lightweight," and therefore also decided to make a videotape of El Rukns pretending to be from various cities around the country to impress the Libyans with the breadth of the El Rukns' membership.
The hostilities in the Gulf of Sidra between the United States military and Libyan air forces forced McAnderson, Cranshaw and Charles Knox to cancel a planned return trip to Libya in May of 1986. At Fort's instruction, the three flew instead to Panama to meet with Libyan officials at the Libyan mission there. In Panama, they gave the Libyans the videotape made under Fort's orders. Upon their return, customs agents searched McAnderson and Cranshaw's luggage and discovered a document written by Cranshaw vaguely describing various acts of terrorism to be performed for the Libyans.
Near the end of June 1986, Fort decided that the Libyans would only be impressed by the use of powerful explosives. He told Cranshaw and McAnderson to discuss with the Libyans the possibility of providing explosive training for the El Rukns. The true focus of Fort's plan, however, was obtaining a handheld rocket launcher or "LAW" rocket. The LAW rocket (for "light anti-tank weapon") was designed to destroy armored tanks. The blast of the explosive and the intense heat can melt ten to twelve inches of armor plate and can penetrate concrete bunker-type facilities. The plan to purchase this deadly weapon, however, was intercepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Ultimately, the FBI, through Special Agent Willie T. Holan and Sam Buford, an informant, contacted Alan Knox, a member of the El Rukns, and offered to sell him several LAW rockets and other military supplies. Holan had been in the process of setting up Knox for a cocaine sting, but successfully shifted gears and convinced Knox that he was also able to provide high-tech military weapons such as the LAW rocket. The weapon which Holan ultimately provided was inoperative, but appeared to contain a "live" explosive. On July 31, 1986, Knox, under instructions from Fort and Mayes, purchased the rocket for $ 1800. Knox, Mayes and Roosevelt Hawkins, another member of the El Rukns, met with Buford on that day and exchanged the money for the rocket. Hawkins drove and waited outside with the money while the final terms of the deal were completed. Once the purchase was made, Hawkins then drove the rocket home toward the "Hut," a building owned by the El Rukns at 6414-6416 South Kenwood in Chicago, but experienced car trouble and turned the rocket over to Mayes who transported it the rest of the way.
On August 5, a search of the "Hut" was conducted pursuant to a warrant. The search uncovered the LAW rocket, as well as 32 firearms, including a MAC-10 machine gun, a fully-automatic .45-caliber pistol, and a .45-caliber Commando volunteer carbine, along with several rounds of armor-piercing bullets designed for submachine gun use.
Fort, McAnderson, Cranshaw, Knox and Hawkins were subsequently charged in a 50 count indictment in the Northern District of Illinois for their roles in the conspiracy. The central count was conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Other counts charged the defendants with interstate travel and use of the telephone in furtherance of the conspiracy. Still other charges involved the firearms and the explosives. All the ...
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