Trial of men accused of gang activity continues

ALBANY -- Two defendants have had racketeering charges dropped, but Dougherty County prosecutors continue their goal of putting them away on street gang terrorism charges.

Heather Lanier, chief assistant district attorney said Courtney Hicks and Jermaine Harrison are accused of multiple other crimes in addition to gang participation.

While Harrison is charged with theft by receiving and selling alcohol without a license, Hicks is accused of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a felon and other charges she added.

Lanier and Matthew Breedon, assistant district attorney, not only began trying to tie together all the connections between the two accused gang members Courtney Hicks and Jermaine Harrison and two gangs Friday in court - they set out to prove Hicks is a gang leader.

With continuous objections from defense attorneys Jim Finkelstein and William Godfrey on the grounds that any knowledge of their clients' membership in the gangs is mere hearsay, it was a confusing legal process to follow.

"To prove gang participation under Georgia law we have to prove that the gangs exist, that the gangs have three or more members and that it is a criminal organization," Lanier said. "It is like the six degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon."

The Kevin Bacon reference is based on the idea that anyone can be connected to another person through other people in six steps. The prosecution plans to show the defendants are connected to other gang members through criminal activities that further the gang's criminal purposes.

The prosecution put Jean Casseus, Albany Police Department investigator and gang expert, on the stand at about 2:30 p.m. He spent most of his testimony outlining gang culture with its written, spoken and fashion culture.

According to Casseus because of the cultural evidence gathered from police searches and tattoos on the defendants, they belong to two offshoots of the major Crips gang, the 8-Trey or the Rolling 30s gangs.

To illustrate the connections between the defendants and other members of the gangs, Breedon rolled out two poster boards with pictures of already convicted gang members taped to them.

After several defense objections to the use of the photos with their clients' photos attached to the boards as if it were proven their clients belonged with the other gang members Judge Willie Lockett made a decision.

Lockett will allow the poster photo boards to be used as the trial resumes next week, without the photos of the defendants on them. Judging from Friday's courtroom action, there will be defense objections every step of the way.