Brooklyn gang leader, two members convicted on three counts of murder
A Brooklyn federal jury found three members of a violent street gang, the Folk Nation Gang, guilty of committing three murders in furtherance of gang activity, racketeering and other related charges.
Defendants Yasser Ashburn, Jamal Laurent and Trevelle Merritt are scheduled to be sentenced on July 10. Ashburn and Laurent face mandatory life imprisonment while Merritt faces 10 years to life.
During the three-week trial, federal prosecutors established that Ashburn, 31, led a Folk Nation set of 20 to 25 members that operated in the Ebbets Field Houses public housing community located in Crown Heights. Over a four-year period, beginning in 2007, the defendants, prosecutors argued, were responsible for numerous acts of gang-related violence, including homicides, non-fatal shootings, and robberies in and around Crown Heights and Flatbush, and elsewhere in the tri-state area. The violence escalated in the spring of 2008.
“For far too long, the defendants and their fellow gang members terrorized this community, murdering innocent young men and committing other violent crimes in their attempt to control what they mistakenly believed was their turf,” said U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District Loretta Lynch.
In April 2008, a fight erupted at a birthday party held in an apartment at the Ebbets Field Houses. Courtney Robinson entered the fight to protect his nephew who was being beaten by Folk Nation gang members. Ashburn, who was present, left the melee and retrieved a handgun from the building stairwell, where the gang typically stored weapons, returned to the apartment and shot Robinson at point blank range in the back, killing him.
Two years later, in June 2010, Laurent, 25, shot and killed 18-year-old Brent Duncan while Duncan sat in his car outside a party in Brooklyn. Laurent later told a friend that he shot Duncan because Duncan was a member of the rival Crips gang — although no evidence established that Duncan actually belonged to that gang.
Evidence against Laurent was found two days later after police responded to a shots-fired call at Laurent’s residence on Schenectady Avenue in Brooklyn.
And in January 2011, Merritt, 22, and other suspected gang members participated in a three-week robbery spree that ended in murder.
In the first two robberies, Merritt stole cellphones from residents of Ebbets Field Houses. Days later Merritt, Laurent and another man attempted to rob Dasta James at his residence on McKeever Place in Brooklyn. During the course of the robbery, James was shot in the back and head. He was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died.
The FBI and NYPD were responsible for leading the government’s investigation.
-Information provided by the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District Loretta Lynch
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