CLEVELAND - Shawn Jones was sitting around smoking marijuana with his cousin when he was about 14 or 15 years old when the two decided they would start their own gang.
That idea eventually blossomed into what authorities believe became Youngstown's largest street gang.
And on Wednesday, Jones, who was one of seven original members of the LSP gang, testified against the remaining five defendants on trial in front of U.S. Northern District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent, including two of the alleged leaders.
Jones, 22, formerly of Halleck Street, positioned his body away from the side of the courtroom where the defendants sat. He never made eye contact with the five on trial. The alleged leader of the gang, Daquann Hackett, stared at Jones nearly the entire three hours of testimony. Jones will begin today's session on the stand because three of the five attorneys have yet to cross-examine him.
Jones, who pointed out the five defendants by name and by identifying what color shirt they were wearing for the eight woman, four man jury, often frustrated prosecutors with vague answers. He mostly answered questions with one word and rarely expanded on questions without prosecutors becoming visibly upset. Defense attorneys successfully were able to get Jones to recant certain testimony by presenting Jones with his conflicting grand jury testimony on details involving a shooting he is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for and on information he provided about one convicted LSP member that he was closest to in the gang.
Jones was the first LSP member to plead guilty, and he testified that he began assisting agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in June 2010, almost a year before the gang was indicted.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors called 11 members of local police, including from Boardman and Austintown. An assistant Mahoning County prosecutor is expected to testify today.
Prosecutors claim LSP members sold drugs, guns and used violence and intimidation to maintain their hold on the drug and gun trade in their South Side territory, which included Laclede, Sherwood and Parkview or Princeton avenues.
Hackett, Derrick Johnson, the gang's alleged No. 2, Terrance Machen Jr., Carlton Council Jr. and Edward Campbell III, are all facing racketeering charges stemming from their alleged involvement in the gang. The other 18 members and associates charged with being members of the gang have pleaded guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
Four have been sentenced to between 21 months and three years in prison.
Hackett faces a maximum sentence of 105 years to life in prison plus a $1 million fine.
The indictment alleges that Hackett became the leader of LSP and maintained his role by purchasing cocaine and crack from three other men, then cooking the crack and distributing it to LSP members and associates to sell on the street.
Johnson faces 121 years to life in prison - including four counts of committing a violent crime in order to increase his position in the gang, two counts of using a gun during a violent crime, conspiracy to distribute 50 grams of crack and retaliation.
The two-year investigation stalled in April 2010 when Hackett and Johnson found a recording device strapped to a confidential informant during a drug transaction. The indictment says they dragged the informant to the basement at 741 W. Laclede Ave. and beat the informant with a gun until police and federal agents interceded.
Jones testified that he and his cousin, Van Lightning, who has pleaded guilty in the case, Hackett, Johnson and Mason, were all part of another gang called Squad Up around 2004. He said they decided to start their own gang, LSP.
Jones said LSP members earned respect by "being cool. Loyalty and making some money," Jones testified. "Putting in the work. Solving a problem someone had."
He said members and potential members - called "associates" - earned respect within the gang by successfully selling drugs throughout the city. Though Johnson was a bad drug dealer because he "didn't know how to stack his money" and used drug proceeds to buy more drugs, he earned respect because he was "good at shooting guns," Jones said.
Jones was uncooperative with prosecutors throughout his testimony. He refused to say Hackett or anyone else led the gang, and Hackett's defense attorney, Russel W. Tye, showed Jones his conflicting grand jury testimony in which he said Aldric Jones, his best friend in the gang who has also pleaded guilty, shot at rival gang members about five times including the Circle Boyz and Dale Boyz. At one point during the prosecutor's questioning, assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Corts told Jones he needed to tell the jury what he previously told him.
"I don't want to be here," Jones blurted out.