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What you need to know for 08/20/2017

Five held as gang probe continues

Five held as gang probe continues

A parade of federal detention hearings in the Four Block Gang sweep continued Thursday, with an acco

A parade of federal detention hearings in the Four Block Gang sweep continued Thursday, with an account from a federal prosecutor of an encounter between Four Block and a rival gang that involved a gun, but no shots.

Federal prosecutor Terrence Kelly recounted the incident as proof that Justin Belle was a Four Block member and should be held pending trial. Kelly said that in June 2010 Belle encountered a rival gang member, who apparently grabbed a gun. No shots were fired, but Belle told another gang member about the incident, Kelly said. A rival gang claimed an area that abutted Four Block’s turf, which was much of Hamilton Hill, Kelly said.

Kelly said two people would testify to Belle’s involvement in the Schenectady gang. Belle allegedly was part of an early group called H Block that morphed into Four Block. Kelly also cited evidence from wiretaps and from Belle’s own Facebook page where he allegedly professed membership in the gang.

Judge David Homer, citing the evidence presented by Kelly, ordered Belle held.

Belle was among 44 individuals indicted in a sweep May 26 aimed at the Four Block Gang. Because of the long list of defendants, detention hearings in U.S. District Court in Albany have been going on since Wednesday and are continuing.

Belle’s attorney, Marc Zuckerman, argued that in the incident Kelly described, the rival pulled a gun, not Belle. He also argued that nothing is yet known about the two informants who identified his client as a gang member or their motivations.

Asked by Homer about the Facebook evidence, Zuckerman said young people often identify with others through certain code words. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a member of a violent street gang.”

In another decision, Homer ordered Kadeem Pell, 23, of Schenectady, held pending trial. Pell was not a member of the Four Block Gang, Kelly said, but he participated in the drug operation’s expansion into Rutland, Vt.

Authorities began their investigation after four Schenectady teenage girls killed themselves two years ago. Three of the suicides were the direct result of harassment and belittlement suffered at the hands of gang members, authorities said. Other girls attempted suicide.

Authorities looking into the suicides soon realized there was a gang connection and an intensive federal, state and local investigation followed. In all, 44 face federal indictments alleging acts in Schenectady, Glenville, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs and as far away as Rutland, Vt. In the morning raids, authorities seized $11,000 in cash, three handguns, one AK-47 and 200 grams of crack cocaine, authorities said.

Six suspects remained at large Wednesday. One of them was caught by Thursday. El-Hajj Moses, 18, of Albany, was in court for his initial appearance.

At the hearings, each defendant has pleaded not guilty. Several up for detention hearing have delayed them.

Homer Thursday ordered Jubbar Singleton, 39, of Schenectady, and Dushan Wilson, 22, and Gregory Wilson, 40, both of Albany, held pending trial.

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