The victim was shot multiple times in the face and neck outside a Newark nightclub.
An Essex County jury on Monday convicted three reputed Bloods street gang members of orchestrating the ambush-style execution of a rival last year in Newark, county prosecutors said.
The jury, seated before Superior Court Judge James Donohue in Newark, found Rashan Jackson, Naim Jones and Hakeem Maloney each guilty of murder conspiracy and weapons charges in the April 27, 2017, slaying of William Porter IV.
The jury found Jackson guilty of murdering Porter, the prosecutor’s office said.
Porter, a 23-year-old member of the Grape Street Crips who was associated with a so-called “hybrid gang,” was shot eight times in a Mulberry Street parking lot after leaving The Boulevard nightclub around 2:30 a.m., Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells told jurors last month.
Wells said surveillance video from a nearby business had earlier captured Jackson, Jones and Maloney meeting in the parking lot and then entering the club before the shooting.
The same surveillance video, Wells said, also captured Jackson, 31, later ambushing Porter after he left the club, firing numerous rounds into his face, head and neck.
The prosecutor’s office also charged Jones, 42, and Maloney, 38, with promoting organized street crime, alleging they directed gang activities as high-ranking members of various Bloods factions.
Authorities specifically identified Jones as the purported “godfather” of the Red Breed Gorillas, a Bloods faction that in recent years was said to control drug distribution in the area of Stratford Place and the Grace West Manor Townhomes on Irvine Turner Boulevard.
The jury, however, was unable to reach a verdict on the gang leadership charges.
In court last month, attorneys for the three defendants argued the state’s video evidence was one-sided and the claims of gang activity overblown.
“Never was a case made, such as ours, that didn’t also have two sides,” defense attorney Michael Robbins said, urging jurors to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt.
While acknowledging Jackson had obtained a handgun prior to Porter’s killing, Robbins said his client did so only after the broad-daylight fatal shooting of his own brother in October 2016.
“It’s not like (Jackson) could call Newark police” for protection, he said.
Jones’ lawyer, Thomas R. Ashley, said the prosecution’s evidence made for “a very weak case as it pertains to Naim Jones.”
The video evidence, Ashley said, did not show anything had transpired between Jackson and Jones, except that Jones was at the scene. The link between Porter’s killing and gang activity was similarly weak, he said, arguing his client’s tattoos didn’t prove anything.
“When you dislike what someone stands for, it’s easier to convict” them, Ashley said.
Both Jones and Maloney are on parole, according to the prosecutor’s office — Jones for aggravated manslaughter and conspiracy convictions in a 2004 double homicide, and Maloney from a 2014 conviction for conspiring to commit robbery.
All three men face up to life in prison, prosecutors said.
Jones and Maloney are scheduled to be sentenced by Donohue on Jan. 4, 2019. Jackson’s sentencing has yet to be scheduled, according to the prosecutor’s office.
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