Verdict reached in Minnesota Indian gang trial

Steve Karnowski (AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal jury reached a verdict Tuesday in the case involving three alleged members of an American Indian gang accused of running a criminal enterprise that terrorized people in the Upper Midwest.

The verdict was expected to be announced later Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court. Jurors began deliberations a week earlier.

Wakinyon Wakan McArthur, 34, — an alleged leader of the Native Mob — and two alleged Native Mob “soldiers,” Anthony Francis Cree, 26, and William Earl Morris, 25, faced multiple counts, including conspiracy to participate in racketeering and attempted murder in the aid of racketeering. The attempted murder charge stemmed from the shooting of another man, which prosecutors say McArthur ordered but defense attorneys dispute.

Authorities said the men participated in a criminal enterprise that used intimidation and violence to keep the gang in power. The three men are the only defendants who didn’t accept plea deals after 25 people were charged in a 57-count indictment. Prosecutors have said the case is important not only because of its size, but because the racketeering charge is a tool rarely used against gangs, indicating the case is an attempt to take down the entire enterprise.

But defense attorneys told jurors during closing arguments that the government’s case was overblown and that while gang members may have committed individual crimes, there was no evidence to support racketeering charges alleging the trio was part of a large, organized criminal group.

The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment called the Native Mob one of the largest and most violent American Indian gangs in the U.S., most active in Minnesota and Wisconsin but also in Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is made up of mostly American Indian men and boys and started in Minneapolis in the 1990s as members fought for turf to deal drugs. The Native Mob also is active in prison.

The Native Mob has about 200 members, with a structure that includes monthly meetings where members were encouraged to assault or murder enemies, or anyone who showed disrespect, the indictment said. Authorities said McArthur was a “chief” of the Native Mob and directed other members to carry out beatings, shootings and other violent acts to intimidate rivals.

Prosecutors said in 2010, Morris tried to kill a man by shooting him multiple times while the man was with his 5-year-old daughter. The indictment said the shooting was done at McArthur’s bidding.

In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter told jurors there is no question the Native Mob is a criminal enterprise, with rules, defined roles and bylaws. He said the gang’s racketeering activity included drug trafficking, attempted murder, murder and witness retaliation.

“When you have a criminal organization, witnesses become a problem,” Winter said. “To make money, the reputation of the Native Mob has to be intact, and when the reputation is threatened, it has to be protected.”

Frederick Goetz, McArthur’s attorney, said during closing arguments that the case was one of monumental overreach.

Christopher Grant, a national Native American gang specialist in South Dakota, has said there are hundreds of American Indian gangs nationwide. Most, he said, are loosely organized and might have as few as five members.

“I consider Native Mob to be the most organized, violent and predatory street gang structure in Indian Country,” Grant told Associated Press in January. “There are many other Native American gangs […] but Native Mob stands out in terms of their victimization of Native American people in both tribal and non-tribal communities.”

The trial, which began in January, included nearly 1,000 exhibits and 180 witnesses.

Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this story.