'Death by Instagram' trial ends in convictions

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Four people charged in the Seven Mile Bloods gang case were convicted of racketeering conspiracy Monday in federal court, a verdict that avenges an earlier mistrial in one of the largest and most complex crackdowns on violent street gangs in the city's history.

The convictions came in the second wave of trials involving accused members of the Seven Mile Bloods, a notorious east-side Detroit gang blamed for terrorizing neighbors, fueling the opioid epidemic and assassinating rivals targeted on Instagram hit lists.

“These guilty verdicts are a tremendous victory for the Detroit community that was plagued by the violence, drug dealing and mayhem inflicted by this violent street gang,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “The jury’s guilty verdicts highlight that our community has no tolerance for the senseless murders and violence spread by gang members.”  

While all face prison time as result of Monday's guilty verdicts, some were acquitted of charges that ranged from those involving weapons to murder.

In all, 21 people have been charged in the case, including accused leader Billy Arnold, who is awaiting trial on charges that include two counts of murder and nine counts of attempted murder — charges that could result in a rare death penalty conviction.

Billy Arnold (Video: YouTube)

The practice of gangsters documenting crimes on social media likely will not change despite the convictions, said Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University sociology professor who has studied Detroit’s gang culture.

"They're going to continue to do this brainless behavior in talking about their business and giving the government a gift," Taylor said. "I think that lot of guys in law enforcement, old gangsters and everybody is in the same disbelief that these kids are that naive, or that stupid."

The Seven Mile Bloods participated in more than 14 shootings, at least four homicides, 11 attempted murders and drug crimes that eroded the quality of life in the gang’s home turf, known as "The Red Zone," according to the government. The turf is in the northeast corner of Detroit in one of the deadliest parts of America’s most violent big city.

The Red Zone on Detroit's east side is in the northeast corner of one of Detroit's deadliest areas, the 48205 ZIP code, known by some as the 4820-DIE.

The case presents a clash of eras because federal prosecutors are armed with digital-age evidence and racketeering conspiracy, a 1970s crime-fighting tool for busting organized crime that has been used in greater frequency since former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of the same charge in 2013.

The verdict — including one acquittal on a racketeering conspiracy charge — followed a 30-day trial and six days of deliberation. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh called the trial "probably the largest volume of information" in a criminal case in his courtroom.

Four people were convicted of racketeering conspiracy. They are:

Corey Bailey

Corey Bailey (Video: YouTube)

Age: 30

Home: Detroit

Nickname: Cocaine Sonny, Sonny

Bio: A lifelong Detroiter, rapper and leader of the Seven Mile Bloods, according to prosecutors. Bailey was acquitted of first-degree murder in 2010. While engaging in gang activity, Bailey participated in Detroit's "Stop the Violence" program in 2013, traveling to area high schools to discourage students from engaging in violent behavior, according to court records. He was arrested in July 2014, convicted of a federal gun crime after investigators found him with a loaded semi-automatic handgun and sentenced to 55 months in prison.

Rap sheet: Since age 12, Bailey has had at least 26 contacts with law enforcement outside prison — including the time West Virginia detectives found him with 53 pain pills — and almost two dozen problems behind bars. Bailey has four prior adult convictions, including two drug offenses.

Status: Jailed since 2014.

Verdict: Bailey was convicted Monday of six crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering and three counts of attempted murder. He was convicted of the 2014 death of Djuan "Neff" Page, who was killed during a drive-by shooting on the city's west side.

Bailey was acquitted of two weapons charges. 

Maximum possible penalty: Life in prison. In a decision announced May 15, the Justice Department decided not to pursue the death penalty upon conviction. A sentencing date has not been set, but Bailey's lawyer vowed an appeal.

Following the verdict Monday, Bailey looked at supporters in the courtroom gallery and said: "It's gonna be alright. It is what it is. It ain't over."

Robert Brown

Robert Brown (Video: YouTube)

Age: 36

Home: Warren

Nickname: RO Da Great

Bio: Brown is a founding member of the Seven Mile Bloods, prosecutors say.

Rap sheet: Multiple arrests and convictions for violent acts, including assault with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery.

Status: Jailed since March 2016. 

Verdict: Brown was convicted of four crimes, including racketeering conspiracy and attempted murder. He was acquitted of two charges, including the murder of 25-year-old Cleo McDougal. McDougal was fatally shot in June 2006 in a killing wrongly blamed on another man who was exonerated after spending more than seven years in prison. 

Maximum possible penalty: Life in prison. A sentencing date has not been set, and his lawyer vowed to appeal the conviction.

Brown muttered "biased-ass court" to supporters while being led away in handcuffs following the verdict. 

"Don't cry," he told a supporter. "We good. We'll be back."

Arlandis Shy

Arlandis Shy (Video: YouTube)

Age: 29

Home: Clinton Township

Nickname: Grymee, VIL

Bio: Shy was raised on the east side of Detroit and worked temporary jobs at auto-parts factories. Shy is a long-standing member of the Seven Mile Bloods, prosecutors say.

Rap sheet: Multiple arrests and convictions in Michigan and West Virginia.

Status: Jailed since early 2016. 

Verdict: Shy was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and a gun crime. He was acquitted of six other crimes, including murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Maximum possible penalty: Life in prison.

Keithon Porter 

Keithon Porter (Photo: Midland County Jail)

Age: 32

Home: Detroit

Nickname: KP

Bio: A former collision shop employee, Porter is an associate of alleged Seven Mile Bloods member Billy Arnold, according to prosecutors. Porter is accused of being involved in one homicide and two shootings. His lawyer says Porter was shot multiple times by a government witness in March 2016. 

Rap sheet: Five drug-related convictions since 2008. 

Status: Jailed since December 2016. 

Indictment: Porter was convicted of eight charges, including racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering and three counts of attempted murder. The murder conviction is related to the death of Dvante “Little” Roberts during a drive-by shooting on the city's east side on May 8, 2015.

He was acquitted of two charges, including attempted murder and a gun crime.

Maximum possible penalty: Life in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

A fifth man, Eugene Fisher, was convicted of two gun crimes and acquitted of four other charges, including racketeering conspiracy. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

A sixth man, Devon Patterson, pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge in June on the first day of the trial. He faces almost three years in federal prison.

The verdicts came five months after the first wave of trials against four members and associates of the gang ended with an acquittal and a hung jury for three defendants.

The next wave of trials is scheduled for October in federal court in Detroit.


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Twitter: @robertsnellnews