Eight members of a Middle Tennessee gang brought down by an extensive federal investigation are scheduled to appear before a judge Tuesday.
In October, the U.S. Attorney's office unsealed a 64-count indictment against members of the Vice Lords street gang, including charges of kidnapping, murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana.
On Tuesday afternoon, the defendants will go before U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell in the Federal Courthouse for a status conference. The purpose of the hearing will be an opportunity for both sides to discuss a trial start date, according to Van Vincent, the assistant U.S. Attorney trying the case, but it also brings one of the area’s most vicious retaliation sprees into court.
Federal prosecutors first began their investigation of the Vice Lords after a string of retaliation crimes that quickly followed the Nov. 10, 2007 shooting death of gang leader Donnell Valentine at the Murfreesboro club, The Drink.
Following that incident, the Vice Lords, led by 28-year-old Roger Wayne Battle, reportedly set out on a wave of retaliation crimes, including four drive-by shootings in Murfreesboro that left four individuals shot — and one, Moss Mason Dixon, dead, according to police reports. The gang members are also charged with the murder of Brandon Harris.
The investigation that led to the indictments was a collaborative effort between federal prosecutors, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, ATF and Murfreesboro and Metro police departments.
According to Vincent, all of the nine suspects have been arrested. Eight have been arraigned on the current charges, including Battle, Jessie Lobbins, Christopher David Imes, Demarco Lewayne Smith, Lashandra Denielle Hightower, Curtis S. Green, Samuel Joseph Gaines and Delregus Alexander.
A ninth defendant, Gary Eugene Chapman, is being held in another Tennessee jurisdiction on other charges.