Jurors in the biggest gang trial in recent Chicago history have convicted the core leadership of the Hobos, a group described by prosecutors as an “all-star team” of criminals whose ruthlessness contributed to the city’s alarming spike in homicides, reports The Guardian. To extend their power on the South Side, prosecutors said, the Hobos cultivated a reputation for brutality so terrifying to witnesses that some chose to go to jail rather than provide evidence against gang leaders. The conspiracy allegedly included the murders of at least nine people, including gang rivals and government witnesses. One victim was fatally shot in 2013 in front of his screaming stepchildren to stop him from testifying. NBA player Bobby Simmons was robbed at gunpoint outside a nightclub for a $200,000 diamond-and-gold chain.
Jurors deliberated for six days before returning the verdicts against accused Hobos boss Gregory “Bowlegs” Chester, alleged hitman Paris Poe and four others. They were convicted of racketeering conspiracy and drug and weapons charges. The convictions followed a bloody year on the streets of Chicago. The nation’s third-largest city logged at leasts 762 homicides last year, the highest tally in 20 years and more than the combined total of the two largest cities New York and Los Angeles. More than 50 people were shot and 11 killed over the long Christmas weekend alone as some gangs sought out and shot rivals at holiday parties. Prosecutors have said for years that dismantling gangs is a key to reducing violence in Chicago.