Gowanus Gang Leader Claims No Jurisdiction for Murder
Brooklyn Rapper ‘Ra Diggs’ Claims Citizenship to Bloods Nation
By Samuel Newhouse
and Ryan Thompson
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
CADMAN PLAZA EAST — An up-and-coming rapper from the Gowanus housing projects could face life in prison after being indicted this week for three counts of murder in Brooklyn federal court.
Ronald Herron, a.k.a. Ra Diggs, has been in jail since a DEA sweep arrested him and eight of his associates in October 2010, charging them with operating a violent crack-cocaine and heroin distribution ring in the Gowanus Houses.
Herron, who was arrested in possession of a bulletproof vest, allegedly led the “Murderous Mad Dog” branch of the Bloods street gang in the Gowanus Houses. In his music videos, he is often seen sitting on a bench in the nearby projects, rapping about Downtown Brooklyn and killing his enemies.
The Gowanus Houses, located one block east of Smith Street, is bordered by Hoyt, Bond, Douglass and Wyckoff streets in Boerum Hill, and was built in 1949, now housing approximately 2,800 residents.
Herron continued to gain popularity while in jail via social media and hip-hop websites. He also made headlines in September of last year with his novel defense claim that the United States did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him nor was he a U.S. citizen.
“I am not a party to the Constitution of the United States of America,” the 29-year-old wrote to U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn.
Herron’s unusual legal claim was reportedly becoming something of a trend among Bloods brought to court in New York state and federal courts — to deny that they are citizens of the United States or subject to the jurisdiction or authority of American law enforcement, presumably because they are citizens of the Bloods nation.
Ironically, this is also popular among members of white supremacist groups that are brought into federal court. In Herron’s letter to Judge Garaufis, he referred to himself as a “sovereign inhabitant” not subject to the U.S. Constitution.
But he also made a second and contradictory argument, claiming that he actually is governed by the U.S. Constitution, just not by any other laws passed since our nation’s founding document.
Judge Garaufis promptly denied the motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds of Diggs not being a U.S. citizen, but held a hearing to discuss Herron’s motion to fire his court-appointed lawyer and represent himself. It is unknown what Herron will do at his upcoming murder trial.
After all, Herron is an eloquent rapper who knows how to use his words. He still has a large following on Myspace, Twitter and YouTube, where he’s boasted that he has “5,000 n—–s with them lorcins ready to turn the pig’s kids into orphans.” Lorcin is a common gun manufacturer.
Unfortunately for Herron, some of the songs and videos he posted online are now evidence in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s case charging Herron with leading “a criminal organization that has dominated the drug trade in the Gowanus Houses in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.”
Herron was arrested along with two acquaintances in a Dodge Charger outside Club Amnesia in Chelsea in October 2010, with a loaded 9mm handgun in the glove box. Police had already seized a bulletproof vest from him on a warrant.
Ra Diggs, a.k.a. “Ra,” “Ra Digga,” “Raheem” and “The Big Homey,” already could have faced life in prison for conspiracy to sell drugs and possession of a firearm charges, even before this week’s multiple murder indictment.
Ironically, Herron has been in the news before, appearing at age 14 in a photograph on the front page of the New York Times in an article about a shooting at Gowanus Houses. He told the paper he saw the police officer who fatally shot Herron’s 13-year-old playmate, who was carrying a plastic toy rifle, weep as he walked out of the housing project.
Federal prosecutors have said in court that online music videos show Herron wearing body armor and shooting guns at a target range, while bragging that he “beat a body” — allegedly in reference to a 2002 murder acquittal, which occurred after two witnesses that Herron’s associates allegedly threatened declined to testify.
More real-life lyrics included a reference to ordering a hit from a hospital bed, which prosecutors say was based upon an incident when Herron was shot and wounded in 1998 by a rival drug dealer who Herron’s cousin killed two days later.
Warnings against snitching accompany a reference to the actual murder of someone in Gowanus Houses believed to have assisted the authorities, prosecutors said.
Undercover NYPD detectives made more than 65 drug buys from members of Herron’s crew at the Gowanus Houses since 2008.
According to the indictment and a detention memorandum filed by the government, a four-year joint investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the NYPD led to charges against members of the alleged crew, as well as raids in Gowanus Houses where firearms, ammunition and quantities of crack-cocaine and heroin were seized.
The defendants charged alongside Herron with narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses were Joseph “Jo Jo” Garcia, 26; Musa “Slim” Marshall, 25; Crystal “Ebb” Lewis, 27; Verdreea “Auntie” Olmstead, 48; Joseph “Rizzle” Randolph; Jason “J” Valentin; Tyhe “Guy in the Bushes” Walker, 29; and Tyrone “Young Bricky” Wilson, 27.