Trial begins for 5 alleged members of gang ‘homicide squad’

COLUMBUS (AP) — A federal trial for five alleged trigger men who authorities say were responsible for nearly a dozen murders tied to a decades-old central Ohio gang has gotten under way with jury selection.

Prosecutors allege the five were members of the Short North Posse’s “homicide squad,” the Columbus Dispatch ( reported as the trial began Monday in federal court. The men were responsible for 11 of 14 murders linked to the gang, prosecutors say.

The defendants are among 10 remaining people who refused plea deals with the government. The other five go on trial in July and September.

Judge Algenon Marbley tightened security for the trial, banning cellphones in and around his courtroom to prevent images or testimony leaking out over social media. U.S. Marshals beefed up their presence for the trial, which could last three months.

Prosecutors say the Short North Posse, dating to the 1990s, distributed drugs including crack cocaine throughout Ohio and in other states, and recruited individuals from elsewhere to join the gang’s operations in central Ohio.

Some of the most recent defendants were relatives of original members of the Short North Posse, including sons and daughters.

The Short North district north of downtown Columbus is now a vibrant shopping and restaurant district, but it was a run-down and at times dangerous area before the first gang crackdown in the 1990s.

Last month, another of the gang members, Robert Wilson III, took responsibility for three previously unsolved murders and also admitted his involvement in a fourth killing to which he already pleaded guilty in state court.

In January 2015, alleged Short North Posse ringleader Jermonte Fletcher, a fugitive for more than a year, was shot and killed after authorities said he opened fire on police.

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