Gang expert: Organized crime unusual among Crips

Posted on Wed, Oct. 29, 2008 BY JOE RODRIGUEZ
The Wichita Eagle

A street gang researcher testified in federal court Tuesday that gangs such as the Crips are loosely organized and typically do not engage in organized criminal activity.

Alex Alonso, who has done extensive research on gangs, was the first witness called by defense attorneys for three alleged Crips gang members named in a federal racketeering indictment.

Tracy Harris, 34, and Clinton Knight and Chester Randall Jr., both 29, are among 28 people who prosecutors say engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that included shootings, drug dealing and prostitution.

Most of the accused were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was first used to prosecute the Mafia and other organized crime groups.

But that’s not a system that exists within most gang sets, including sets of the Crips, Alonso testified.

Under direct examination by Laura Shaneyfelt, Knight’s attorney, Alonso said some Chicago gangs have a system of hierarchy for members.

“You don’t see that in Crip sets,” said Alonso, of Los Angeles, who has had several works published about street gangs.

Harris’ attorney, Kurt Kerns, also asked Alonso about that system.

“If Wichita has a ‘Crip organization,’ would it be the only place in the world you’ve ever seen that?” Kerns asked Alonso.

“Yes, it would,” Alonso responded.

Alonso also said Crips sets tend not to be involved in organized crime. Crips and Bloods gang members typically do not commit crimes on behalf of the gang, he said.

“They’re more selfish,” he said. “I’ve never seen a sharing of the wealth.”

His testimony differed from that of witnesses called by prosecutors.

Earlier this week, two men identified as Crips gang leaders — who testified against Harris, Knight and Randall — said that the gangs were well organized and that they have their own internal security, handing out beatings to members who missed meetings.

In her cross-examination of Alonso, Assistant U.S. Attorney Deb Barnett pressed him on his knowledge of street gangs in Wichita.

He acknowledged most of his research was done in California, and that he had not interviewed any gang members in Wichita — as he had done in other communities for his research.

She questioned Alonso on a claim he made that few gang members were actually “jumped out” of a gang — an action he said that is more “Hollywood” than reality.

“You don’t know how often it happens in Wichita, Kansas, do you?” Barnett asked Alonso.

“No,” he said.

Other witnesses called by the defense Tuesday included:

• Crystal Knight, Knight’s wife. She described her husband as a family man who gets their children ready for school and cooks for them.

She said she knew her husband “used to be” in a gang, but that he was no longer involved in that activity.

In cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley asked Crystal Knight whether she had knowledge of every aspect of her husband’s life, including friends of her husband who are also alleged to be gang members.

“It’s a fair statement that you don’t know all of (Clinton Knight’s) friends?” Oakley asked.

Yes, she answered.

• Neal Secrist, a Wichita physician.

He testified that, through his practice, he met Harris and became a partner with him on a real estate purchase. The property they purchased and renovated was eventually sold, he said.

Harris’ attorney, Kerns, admitted in his opening statement that his client was a drug-dealing gang member in the early 1990s, but he said Harris served his time for his crimes and was trying to establish himself as a legitimate businessman at the time of his arrest.

Under cross-examination by Barnett, Secrist said that he was not aware of any gang ties that Harris had.

The defense is scheduled to finish calling witnesses today, and the jury could begin deliberations Friday morning.

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