In a Chicago racketeering trial, the leader of the Wicked Town street gang was found guilty of six murders.

At the end of a two-month racketeering trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, a federal jury convicted the head of the relentlessly violent Wicked Town street gang and held him responsible for six murders.

Jurors found that many murders committed during Wicked Town’s reign of violence on the West Side were “committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner.”

The jury also found Torance “Blackie” Benson, a gang “shooter” guilty. It charged him with one murder and three attempted murders.

Following the announcement of the verdict, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin thanked the jurors and described their service as “incredible.” He did not schedule a hearing for Lee or Benson, both of whom face mandatory life sentences.

When the verdict was read in court, neither of the two men showed any obvious emotion.

Lee and Benson’s trial lasted more than nine weeks and repeatedly exposed jurors to evidence of brutal violence.

The jury also heard from a slew of other Wicked Town conspirators. They were charged with Lee and Benson last year, but they pleaded guilty and admitted to their own crimes, including murder, on the witness stand.

One, Deshawn Morgan, admitted to killing a longtime friend on the mistaken belief that the friend had snitched on him to authorities.

Donald Holmes Jr. and Diane Taylor were shot to death in a Jeep Cherokee on Jan. 31, 2018, in the 4700 block of Arthington Street. Darius “Skudder” Murphy was later caught on tape bragging about shooting Holmes and Taylor in the head. The Jeep was parked outside Murphy’s house at the time of the murders. He later confessed to their murders.

Jurors were shown images from the bloody aftermath of the shooting early last month. Morgan testified that Lee later told him that having the pair killed right in front of Murphy’s house was “it was a dumb idea”

Defense attorneys for Lee and Benson urged the jury not to believe such witnesses, claiming they were simply attempting to shorten the lengthy prison sentences they are also likely to serve by lying to assist prosecutors. Lee’s lawyer, Lisa Wood, insisted the feds’ case was a “house of cards” that would “crumble with just the slightest touch.”

She also stressed that the trial was not a “town hall meeting” and that the verdict would “say nothing” about Chicago’s scourge of street gang violence.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney John Mitchell, if the defense attorneys’ claim about lying witnesses was true, the witnesses “would have told better lies.”

From July 2000 to August 2020, the Wicked Town conspiracy lasted two decades. The feds claimed that the gang, which was a faction of the Traveling Vice Lords, was governed by three rules. Members of Wicked Town were never to lose a gun or speak to law enforcement. They were also expected to use violence to achieve their objectives.

According to the evidence, Lee told a fellow gang member in an April 2019 phone call, “You don’t ever sell one of the guns that can save one of the guys’ life,”

Last year, Wicked Town was charged with 19 murders. Prosecutors claimed Lee rose through the ranks of Wicked Town by murdering three people in three years. Wood pointed out that her client had no direct involvement in several of the murders under investigation, but Mitchell said it didn’t matter.

What mattered was whether Lee and Benson agreed those or other crimes should be committed in the midst of the gang’s behavior.

The Wicked Town conspiracy was discovered by jurors to include the murders of Lamont Ware in July 2000, Ernest Moore in December 2002, John Johnson in June 2003, Charlie Weathers in May 2015, Malcolm Wille in July 2015, Kishaun Mobley in December 2017 and Martel Howard in January 2016.

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