WASHINGTON – A federal jury has convicted three Vice Lord gang members for their various roles in the murder of two individuals, and attempted murders of additional victims, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Roger Wayne Battle, 30, aka “T-Wayne,” of Nashville, Tenn.; Jessie Lobbins, 26, aka “Jessie Oliver” and “Trap,” of Memphis, Tenn.; and Gary Eugene Chapman, 32, aka “Wheat,” of Morristown, Tenn., all were convicted yesterday in U.S. District Court in Nashville.
Battle was found guilty on 57 charged counts, including for the murder of Moss James Dixon and Brandon Harris, aka “Chicago.” He also was convicted on charges of conspiracy to murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering related to 13 additional victims; carrying and using firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence; and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
Lobbins was found guilty on six counts, including for his role in Harris’s murder; conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; carrying and using firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence; assault with a dangerous weapon resulting in serious bodily injury of a federal inmate in aid of racketeering; and tampering with a witness.
Chapman was found guilty on 29 counts, including conspiracy to commit murder; assault with a dangerous weapon; carrying and using firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence; and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
“Mr. Battle and his co-defendants committed brutal acts of violence in the name of the Vice Lords gang,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Yesterday, a Tennessee jury emphatically rejected their pattern of murder and mayhem. Gang violence too often begets more gang violence, leading to ruthless retaliations, instilling fear among innocent civilians, and causing harm to mere bystanders. We cannot, and we will not, slow down in our efforts to hold members of violent criminal enterprises like the Vice Lords to account for their crimes.”
“We will continue to vigorously pursue those who choose to become involved in violent gangs and wreak havoc on our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin. “The verdicts in this case clearly demonstrate the dedication and commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to rid our communities of violent offenders. Middle Tennessee will certainly be a safer place without the presence of these individuals.”
According to evidence presented at trial, Battle was the leader of the Traveling Vice Lords, holding the rank of Five Star Universal Elite and controlling Middle and East Tennessee. The murders and attempted murders were a result of Battle and other members of the Traveling Vice Lords and the Conservative Vice Lords seeking revenge for the killing of Donnell Valentine, aka “Hitman,” the leader of the Conservative Vice Lords in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 2007, according to evidence presented at trial, multiple fights between members of the Vice Lords and the Gangster Disciples erupted at a party held at the Armory in Murfreesboro. Valentine believed that during the course of the fighting, Antwan Butler, aka “Tweezy,” had not come to his aid. Butler was a fellow member of the Traveling Vice Lord gang. Failure to come to Valentine’s aid was a violation of Vice Lords’ rules, as Butler held a lower rank than Valentine’s Five Start Universal Elite rank. As a result, Valentine complained to Battle, who then decided to “put” Butler out of the gang, meaning he would no longer be a member of the Vice Lords.
According to evidence presented at trial, that same day, Butler was lured to an apartment at the Rutherford Woodlands apartment complex in Murfreesboro where he was beaten by Battle, Chapman and Valentine to the point of being unrecognizable by family members. Christopher Imes, a co-defendant, was also present. After the beating, Butler told family and friends, including Kevin Herrin, aka “Light Skin,” that Battle, Chapman, Imes and Valentine had beaten him.
That same night, members of the Traveling Vice Lords, including Battle, Chapman, Imes and members of the Conservative Vice Lords, including Valentine, Samuel Gaines, aka “Born Ready,” and Frederick Carney, aka “Little Fred,” went to a club called The Drink, in Murfreesboro. There, Herrin and others approached the Vice Lords and a fight erupted. During the course of the fight, Valentine was shot and killed.
As a result of the assault and murder at The Drink, Battle, Chapman, Imes, Demarco Smith, Danielle Hightower, Curtis Green (Battle’s cousin), Carney and Gaines conspired to retaliate against people they believed had been involved in the assault and murder by shooting at locations where they thought those individuals lived. According to evidence presented at trial, while the targets were people at the fight, the Vice Lords were willing to shoot anyone staying in a house where their targets were visiting or living.
According to evidence presented at trial, five retaliatory shootings then occurred around Murfreesboro, including at the following locations:
On Nov. 13, 2007, at 431 East State Street, five people were in a house when shots were fired, including two individuals hit by the gunfire;
On Nov. 14, 2007, at 907 West Main Street, four people were in a house, including Dixon who was shot and died two weeks later as a result of his injuries;
On Nov. 18, 2007, at 1401 Eagle Street, three people were in a house when shots were fired, though none were injured; and
On Jan. 1, 2008, at 424 Castleview Street, three people were in a house when shots were fired, including two individuals hit by the gunfire.
The fifth retaliatory shooting, on Feb. 10, 2008, was carried out by Battle and Lobbins and resulted in Harris’ death. According to evidence presented at trial, Harris was a member of the Mikey Cobras, a gang aligned with the Vice Lords. Battle believed that Harris had made statements regarding Battle having some involvement in the death of Valentine. Subsequently, Battle lured Harris to O’Charley’s, a restaurant on Bell Road in Nashville, under the guise of a drug transaction. Lobbins accompanied Battle to the location. Battle and Lobbins then led Harris, in a car driven by Gaines, to Rice Road in Antioch, Tenn., where Battle and Lobbins then shot Harris to death. According to evidence presented at trial, Battle admitted in a call from jail with Chapman to killing Harris, saying that he could only “let it slide for so long” and that he (Battle) had “personally demonstrated,” meaning that Battle had personally killed Harris.
Eight individuals have pleaded guilty to various crimes related to their involvement in the Vice Lord gang. Smith and Imes each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and to the murder of Dixon. Hightower pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and assault. Gaines pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder related to the retaliatory shootings that occurred from Nov. 13, 2007, to Jan. 1, 2008. Delregus Alexander pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use and carry firearms during and in relation to crimes of violence related to the retaliatory shootings on Jan. 1, 2008. Curtis Green pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. These six individuals are currently awaiting sentencing. Carney was a juvenile at the time of the shootings, and has subsequently been convicted of federal charges unrelated to these events and serving a prison sentence. Herrin has subsequently been convicted of federal charges unrelated to these events and is currently in prison.
Battle and Lobbins face mandatory life prison sentences. Chapman faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell scheduled sentencing for Jan. 27, 2012.
The investigation was a joint operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Murfreesboro Police Department; and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Van S. Vincent for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Cody L. Skipper of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.