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Case against Latin Kings fading fast in Tampa

Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet refused a bid for a rehearing.

Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet refused a bid for a rehearing.

TAMPA — A judge refused Thursday to resuscitate the gutted Latin Kings prosecution and then dismissed two more racketeering charges, further blows to a case imperiled by a wayward confidential informant.

Prosecutors had sought a rehearing after Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet threw out charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering against 23 alleged gang members.

But Sleet wouldn't budge from his April 7 ruling.

"I stand by my order," he said. "You wouldn't find a more zealous proponent for the deterrence of gang violence than the person sitting right here. (But) there were no crimes committed by this group."

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has until Tuesday to file an appeal. That decision is being discussed, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said.

Sleet, a former prosecutor appointed to the bench in 2006, criticized FBI, Tampa police and Hillsborough sheriff's handlers in his ruling last week for improperly supervising an informant who broke the law on their watch. The judge said they allowed Luis "Danny" Agosto to revive a dormant gang and then threaten people with physical violence to coerce their attendance at meetings.

At least six law enforcement agencies swarmed an August 2006 Latin Kings meeting that resulted in the highly touted arrests of purported gang members.

Initially, more than 50 defendants faced charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, felonies punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Because some accepted plea deals for probation, only 28 defendants remained when defense attorney Lyann Goudie filed her motion in the fall charging police and prosecutor misconduct.

Sleet's ruling last week cut the list to six.

During a sometimes heated hearing Thursday, defense attorneys lobbied for another reduction. They argued that accusations of kidnapping and aggravated assault stemming from the May 20, 2006, beating of a gang member counted as only one criminal act against defendants Marcus Jiles and Edwin Deleon.

To prove a racketeering case, prosecutor Christine Brown had to show that two or more people conspired and committed at least two criminal acts.

When she could not provide that evidence, Sleet dismissed the racketeering charges against Jiles and Deleon.

He will consider also dismissing conspiracy charges against the men and similar charges against Omari Tolbert after hearing more testimony from officers May 16.

The judge wants to know how alleged drug deals committed by Tolbert are related to the criminal enterprise. Defense attorney Goudie argued the deals were an "individual hustle," but prosecutor Brown said Tolbert is a Latin Kings member and his actions helped make a name for the overall organization.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Case against Latin Kings fading fast in Tampa 04/17/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 19, 2008 12:03pm]
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