Federal juries to begin deliberations in morning in Jacksonville racketeering trial

Jacksonville.com on April 16, 2012 released the following:

“By Jim Schoettler

A rarely used double jury will begin deliberations Tuesday in the federal racketeering trial of two Jacksonville men accused of being part of a gang that terrorized sleeping homeowners, robbed banks, sold drugs and beat people.

Closing arguments in the trial of Maynard Kenneth Godwin, 32, and Eric Steven Ellis, 27, ended Monday afternoon and were followed by 90 minutes of complex jury instructions.

Godwin and Ellis both face life in prison if convicted of being involved in a gang known as the Guardians. Prosecutors said Godwin led the gang and wore dog tags with the title “The Boss,” while Ellis was an associate.

The double jury — 12 jurors and four alternates on each — was required to preserve the defendants’ rights to confront each other since they had incriminating evidence against one another. Prosecutors said the double jury was the first in the 35-county federal Middle District of Florida. Double juries have been used in state court in the local circuit.

The juries heard closing arguments separately, returned together to get instructions from District Judge Marcia Howard, then separated to choose foremen.

When the trial began four weeks ago, prosecutors said the gang was named after Godwin and others were watching the cable-based “Sons of Anarchy,” a show about an outlaw California motorcycle gang. Defense attorneys argued there was no such influence and that no gang existed.

Testimony included still-terrified victims of the robberies and one man who was nearly beaten to death. Several gang members who have already pleaded guilty also testified, as did the defendants.

Prosecutor Jay Taylor did not mention the television show during his closing arguments. Taylor said neither the gang name nor how it was created mattered.

He said the key was that Godwin and Ellis were involved in a criminal enterprise that shared in the proceeds of multiple criminal acts that benefited the group.

“Stripped to the bone and marrow, Maynard Kenneth Godwin and his band of Guardians are greed. They are brutality,” Taylor said.

Godwin’s attorney, James Hernandez, admitted his client was a drug dealer and dealt in stolen property. But Hernandez said Godwin acted on his own rather than part of an enterprise.

“He did that for his own proceeds, not the proceeds of a gang,” Hernandez said. “There is no gang in existence.”

Gerald Bettman, Ellis’s attorney, referenced a famous motorcycle daredevil to make the same arguments for his client. “There were sporadic events that people did like Evel Knievel would do, but on his own, by himself,” Bettman said. “This was not an enterprise.”

Taylor countered that if police, led by the FBI, had not arrested the gang members in November 2010, the enterprise would have continued.

“You know that there was drug deal after drug deal after drug deal, robbery after robbery after robbery,” Taylor said. “It was an ongoing activity that was not going to stop.”

Prosecutors said some victims were targeted through Internet property record searches of high-dollar homeowners who had paid off their homes. One attack led to the theft of more than $1 million in money and jewelry, while more than $400,000 was taken in another.

Records show gang members often dressed in all black and referred to each other as brothers. They owned and rode expensive motorcycles, frequently going on social rides with each other or in groups. They enjoyed body building together and frequented strip clubs.

Police and federal agents infiltrated the gang with the help of a confidential informant and wiretaps, records show.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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