Tariton Callier has been exactly where his son is: a 20-something convicted for being part of a Youngstown gang and facing an extended federal prison sentence. Now the ex-Ready Rock Boys gang member is trying to help his son.
Callier, who was convicted in 1994 for selling crack cocaine as part of the gang, said his son, Dominique, will have to figure out what direction he wants his life to take, and that he'll have to learn that sustained hard work can pay off.
Tariton Callier said he learned those lessons after he was convicted for selling crack cocaine throughout the city and for being one of the gang's leaders. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison but was released in March 2011 after serving 17 years.
Callier said though he knows his son had committed crimes, he, like many parents and defense attorneys involved in the case, still believes the charges are too harsh for the group who grew up together on the city's South Side.
"They overly charged a bunch of juveniles with mafia crimes," Callier said last week.
Dominique Callier, 20, was accused of being part of the LSP gang, which authorities said was the largest street gang in the city before they were dismantled following a two-year investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Mahoning County Law Enforcement Task Force. He pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to 41 to 51 months.
The investigation targeted 23 LSP members and associates, and 18 have pleaded guilty and four have been sentenced to 21 months to three years.
The remaining five defendants, including alleged leader Daquann Hackett, and Derrick Johnson Jr., who investigators said was the most dangerous gang member, began their trial Wednesday in U.S. Northern District Court in front of Cleveland Judge Donald C. Nugent.
Last March, federal authorities brought charges against members of the South Side gang they claim controlled drug trafficking, shot at rival gang members and attempted to kill an informant during the last 10 years.
The 42-count indictment states the LSP gang, which stands for Laclede, Sherwood and Parkview or Princeton avenues, the streets at the heart of the gang's territory, controlled drug trafficking and enhanced and protected their gang's power through violence.
Among the criminal acts described in the indictment are murder, robbery, witness tampering, retaliation, drug trafficking, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, felonious assault, aggravated menacing, firearms trafficking, theft, receiving stolen property, carjacking, breaking and entering and burglary.
Victims of the attacks told the Tribune Chronicle that gang members also attempted to bribe them in exchange for not testifying against them in court.
Dominque Callier, was convicted in common pleas court of shooting Sherrick Johnson and John Mitchell in 2009 during a drive-by shooting.
Reports said Wayne Kerns, an accused member of the gang, drove Johnson on a drive-by shooting. Reports said Kerns approached officers investigating the shooting and told them he was approached by Derrick Johnson who wanted a ride.
Callier was sentenced to serve seven years in state prison after being bound over from juvenile court.
Prosecutors used the shooting, believed to have been gang-related, to link Callier to the LSP gang and the gang charge. Callier was also accused of threatening to murder someone and possessing a handgun in 2009.
His father said three weeks after Dominique Callier agreed to plead guilty to the shooting, federal agents charged him with racketeering. Callier, as part of the plea agreement, was convicted of gang specifications that alleged the shooting was part of a gang dispute.
Cleveland attorney Michael J. Goldberg, Dominique Callier's attorney, said Callier seemed to never have a chance, and that since then his father has helped him realize that he can turn his life around.
"He's young enough that he can make a change and be a productive member of society," Goldberg said. "I've never seen a sadder background or set of circumstances."
Goldberg, in a court filing, wrote that Callier began smoking marijuana at age 9. He said he also began committing crimes about the same time. Callier was two years old when his father was sent to federal prison. His uncle, who Callier looked up to, was sent to prison when he was 13, Goldberg wrote.
Callier's mother battled drug addiction, the filing said, and Callier bounced around to different family members and foster parents for the majority of his childhood.
But Goldberg said Tariton Callier has helped his son focus on improving his son's life.
Tariton Callier said during his 17 years in federal prison he learned a variety of lessons that he passed on to his son now facing a similar fate.
Tariton Callier, according to court records, was convicted by a jury of conspiring with 12 other Ready Rock Boys members to sell crack cocaine and for selling the drug to informants.
The elder Callier, while federal agents were using wire taps and confidential drug buys to build a case against the group, was arrested by New Jersey State Police, who found he possessed $19,979 in the car.
During the trial, two witnesses testified Callier was making his second trip to New York City to buy cocaine with the gang's collective money. Testimony said he bought 2.5 kilograms of cocaine during the first trip.
According to court records, prosecutors believed Callier was one of the gang's leaders because he also bought drugs from Detroit. Several of the Ready Rock Boys were originally from Detroit and used their connections to buy drugs, according to court records.
Callier said he's still adjusting to life after prison. He said he told his son to make the most out of his time in prison. There, the elder Callier said he enrolled in as many programs as was offered and taught himself how to internationally trade money. He's also working at a home health care company.
"There's been a learning curve day by day," Tariton Callier said. "Life as a grown man and life as a child are two different lives. I had to be a lot more responsible. I learned hard work paid off over time. It's a continuing struggle."
Callier said he told his son that just because he's currently in a bad situation, doesn't mean he has to succumb to it.
"I would encourage a lot of these young men look for their own guidance and to be accountable for their own actions," Callier said. "The system is designed to sweep these kids up and they don't care where they end up. Whoever you get positivity from, whether it's family or not, stick with them. It's definitely going to be a lot tougher if you don't have support."