Folk Nation Gang Members Found Guilty

For almost a decade, he led a Folk Nation set of 20 to 25 members that operated in the Ebbets Field Houses, a New York City public housing community in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

From approximately 2007 until their arrests in 2011 and 2012, the gang leader and others were responsible for numerous acts of gang-related violence including homicides, non-fatal shootings, and robberies in and around Crown Heights and Flatbush, and elsewhere in the tri-state area.

The government’s evidence at trial established that on April 20, 2008, a fight erupted at a birthday party held in an apartment at the Ebbets Field Houses. After Courtney Robinson entered the fight to protect his nephew who was being beaten by Folk Nation gang members, the gang leader left the melee and retrieved a handgun from the building stairwell where the gang typically stored weapons.

Point blank range

He then returned to the apartment and shot Robinson at point blank range in the back, killing him.

Two years later, on June 19, 2010, another gang member shot and killed 18-year-old Brent Duncan while Duncan sat in his car outside a party in Brooklyn. The gang banger subsequently told a friend that he shot Duncan because Duncan was a member of the rival Crips gang, although no evidence established that Duncan actually belonged to that gang.

Two days after the murder, NYPD officers responded to a shots-fired call at the gang member’s residence in Brooklyn. There, the officers found that a bullet had been fired from his bedroom through an adjoining wall into the room of another tenant in the building.

The officers entered his room and recovered a 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson handgun hidden in a slit in the box-spring of a bed. The NYPD Firearms Analysis Section subsequently determined that it was the same gun that was used to murder Duncan.

Three-week robbery spree

During a three-week period in January 2011, gang members participated in a robbery spree that culminated in murder. In the first two robberies, they robbed two residents of the Ebbets Field Houses of their cell phones.

On January 28, 2011, they attempted to rob Dasta James at his residence on McKeever Place in Brooklyn. During the course of the robbery, James was shot in the back and head. He was then taken to Kings County Hospital, where he died.

Early in 2015, following a three-week trial, defendants Yasser Ashburn, the gang leader, and Jamal Laurent and Trevelle Merritt were found guilty by a jury in Brooklyn federal court of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, including as racketeering acts the murders of Courtney Robinson, Brent Duncan and Dasta James, and related crimes.

At sentencing in July 2015, Ashburn and Laurent face mandatory life imprisonment, and Merritt faces 10 years to life.

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