Crown Heights

Brooklyn Folk Nation gang leader sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment

March 17, 2016 From U.S. Department of Justice
Yasser Ashburn. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice

Thursday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Yasser Ashburn, the leader of a set of the violent street gang Folk Nation operating primarily in the Crown Heights and East Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn, was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment. On Nov. 10, 2015, one of Ashburn’s co-defendants, Jamal Laurent, was sentenced to five consecutive life terms of imprisonment. Prior to that, on Nov. 6, 2015, co-defendant Trevelle Merritt was sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment. On Thursday, all three defendants were convicted, following a jury trial, of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, including as racketeering acts the murders of Courtney Robinson, Brent Duncan, and Dasta James, and related crimes.

The sentence was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; and William J. Bratton, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Ashburn led a Folk Nation set of 20 to 25 members that operated in the Ebbets Field Houses, a New York City public housing community in Crown Heights. From approximately 2007 until their arrests in 2011 and 2012, the defendants were responsible for numerous acts of gang-related violence, including homicides, non-fatal shootings, and robberies in Brooklyn and elsewhere in the tri-state area.

The government’s evidence at trial established that, during the early morning hours of April 20, 2008, a fight erupted at a birthday party held in an apartment at the Ebbets Field Houses. After Courtney Robinson entered the fight to protect his nephew who was being beaten by Folk Nation gang members, Ashburn left the melee and retrieved a handgun from the building stairwell where the gang typically stored weapons. Ashburn then returned to the apartment and shot Robinson at point blank range in the back, killing him.

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The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime & Gangs Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Darren A. LaVerne, M. Kristin Mace, and Margaret Lee are in charge of the prosecution, assisted by EDNY Investigator Erik Nesbitt.


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