Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Two San Diego men were sentenced in federal court Thursday to life in prison for their roles in a slew of gang-related crimes, including a half-dozen murders, a takeover robbery, witness intimidation and sex trafficking of a minor.

A federal jury in March found Jermaine Gerald Cook, 31, and Marcus Anthony Foreman, 28, guilty of conspiracy along with two other co-defendants under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

During a five-week trial, prosecutors set out to demonstrate how Cook, Foreman, Terry Carry Hollins, 33, and Wilbert Ross, 32, worked together to commit a lengthy list of serious offenses.

The jury found that the defendants were participating in a criminal enterprise when:

— Cook fatally shot Joseph Hutchins, 19, for wearing a red shirt, the color of a rival gang, as the victim was riding his bicycle on Orange Avenue in San Diego.

— Foreman approached a victim, Andres Caldera, asked for a cigarette then issued a common gang challenge by asking where he was from. When Caldera answered by asking where Foreman was from, Foreman yelled his gang name, pulled a .40-caliber pistol and shot Caldera in the face.

— Foreman, Ross and Hollins robbed a Logan Heights business, forcing employees onto the floor and holding guns to their heads. During an ensuing police chase, the trio ditched their getaway car and a handgun, but officers captured all three and recovered the firearm, which turned out to be the one that had been used to murder Caldera.

— Fellow gang member Meashal Fairley was murdered in front of a San Diego nightclub because of his suspected cooperation with law enforcement. Hollins and Cook were connected to the scene of the crime through DNA evidence, according to prosecutors.

— A gang member was killed in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. Ross had gotten into a dispute with a man over a rental car, and they set up a meeting at the restaurant, supposedly to resolve the disagreement. But upon arrival, the man was attacked by a group of thugs led by Ross. In self-defense, the victim fatally stabbed one of the assailants, Jeffrey “J.J.” Rees.

— Gang member Paris Hill was murdered by his cohorts for giving a statement to police about the Rees murder. In a recorded conversation, Hollins told his cellmates: “That’s how we did the boy (Hill) … . When it was time … I seen it all in his face … but … he was a gangster, though. And he knew that … it was his doing.” Prosecutors contended that the comments constituted an admission by Hollins that he had participated in Hill’s murder;

— Chyrene Borgen, a gang associate, was gunned down at a Halloween party after she criticized the defendants for murdering Fairley. Following her murder, several defendants posted photos of themselves on social media from the scene of the slaying. The defendants also appeared on cellphone videos, boasting about their crimes.

The defendants were arrested and charged in 2014 as part of an investigation involving 36 other suspects, 34 of whom eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The other two were convicted in separate trials.

Hollins and Ross also have been sentenced to life in prison for their parts in the crimes. Another of their gang cohorts, Cleotha Young, was convicted in June 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the lead defendant in the case, Randy Graves, was found guilty by a jury in April of this year and received a life prison term as well.

RICO, a 1970 law initially used to prosecute mobsters and organized crime, increasingly has been an effective tool for prosecuting and dismantling street gangs in recent years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

—City News Service