A member of one of Chicago's lower-profile but more vicious street gangs stood before a federal judge Wednesday and, one by one, admitted to a chilling litany of violent acts he committed to advance his role in the gang and to protect and grow its illicit profits.
Byron Brown, 29, answered, "Yes, sir" repeatedly as he was asked by U.S. District Judge John Tharp Jr. about his work for the Hobos street gang, from repeatedly stabbing a drug dealer with a pocketknife to find out where he had hidden drugs to ordering a semipro basketball player he mistook for a rival to lie facedown on the ground, then shooting him 10 times and killing him.
In pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, Brown admitted to committing three murders and being present at two others. Brown also admitted that he ran a Hobo drug corner, helped protect other locations where the gang peddled drugs and also committed robberies, burglaries and shootings.
Brown, one of nine Hobos originally charged as part of the conspiracy, is cooperating with the government to avoid a possible death sentence, prosecutors said. In exchange for his help, prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of 35 to 40 years.
Brown is currently serving a 25-year sentence in state prison for murder.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski said in court that Brown and the other gang members ran their criminal enterprise from 2004 to 2009. Otlewski outlined several crimes Brown and other Hobos allegedly committed during that time, including shooting a gang rival they found asleep in a car. Members of the gang committed home invasions and once killed a man in a car crash while fleeing police, he said.
Brown shot the basketball player, Eddie Moss, specifically to advance his leadership in the Hobos, which formed in the former Robert Taylor public housing complex, Otlewski said.
The gang was cobbled together by factions of the Gangster Disciples and Black Disciples gangs and had a reputation for targeting anyone who threatened its operation. Among the slayings the gang allegedly committed was that of a man who was secretly cooperating with law enforcement.
The only time Brown spoke at length was when Tharp asked him if, as part of his role in the gang, he had given directions to younger Hobos members. Brown paused and said yes before offering an explanation.
"Just like I felt it was my job to do what the older people told me to do," he said.
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