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RICO law used to crack down on gang accused in cop shootings

Reputed Black Souls leader Cornel Dawson.

Reputed Black Souls leader Cornel Dawson.

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Updated: July 15, 2013 7:52PM

The leaders of a West Side gang accused of ruthlessly enforcing a “no-snitch” code — and shooting two Chicago Police officers in the head in 2011 — were arrested Thursday in a massive roundup under a new state racketeering law.

The Black Souls are accused of at least six murders, kidnapping, gunrunning and drug dealing. The investigation, called Operation .40-Cal, began in October after the gang allegedly killed a West Side man who complained to the police about illegal activity on his block.

Authorities said the gang is among the most difficult to infiltrate because the leaders use murders to keep witnesses from testifying against them.

Secret recordings earlier this year captured reputed Black Souls chief Cornel “Corn” Dawson saying he held meetings with younger Black Souls to warn them not to cooperate with the police — and was worried he was under investigation for murder, prosecutors said.

“These leaders tend to insulate themselves and this law helps law enforcement penetrate the veil of secrecy,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said.

Dawson, 38, was among the 41 reputed members charged in Operation .40-Cal.

“This gives us a larger net in order to attack the entire gang,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who appeared with McCarthy and the FBI at a news conference.

The racketeering case accuses the gang of at least six killings dating to 1999. The June 24, 2002, murder of Charles Watson highlights the gang’s use of violence as a disciplinary tool, authorities said.

A member of the Black Souls had accused two lower-ranking members of the gang of stealing money and drugs, authorities said. The two members were beaten and one of them, Watson, died.

Watson was buried upside-down in a yard on the West Side — a killing the gang used over the years to reinforce obedience in the ranks, authorities said.

One Black Souls member allegedly told police that Watson’s murder was an example of the gang’s motto: “Death before dishonor.”

“If you rat out somebody or tell on somebody . . . you’ll die,” the member allegedly said in a statement to police.

The racketeering case also included the 1999 murder of Darryl Green. Two reputed Black Souls members — Kevin Mitchell and Dimeyon Cole — were among those charged Sunday with first-degree murder in his death.

They allegedly abducted Green at gunpoint from a west suburban beeper company he owned with his brother. They sought a ransom before driving Green to Gary, Ind., and shooting him.

The racketeering case also accuses the gang of being involved in the shooting of two Chicago Police officers on July 28, 2011.

The officers, Ruben Del Valle and Jeffrey Friedlieb, were patrolling the West Side when they attempted to stop Black Souls members for drug dealing, prosecutors said.

One suspect, Alvis Holley, allegedly fired a shot that grazed Del Valle in the head and another shot that struck his arm. Then Holley shot Friedlieb in the head and the bullet lodged behind his ear, where it still remains, prosecutors said.

Both officers survived their wounds. Holley is in the Cook County Jail on attempted murder charges, records show.

Operation .40-Cal was the first time Cook County prosecutors have used last year’s state Street Gang RICO law to go after a gang. The law allows prosecutors to combine different gang crimes into a single case to dismantle their organizations and hold gang leaders accountable when they commit crimes or others carry them out. RICO — or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization — charges have long been used in federal court to nab mobsters and gangsters.

The Black Souls charged in the case face charges ranging from narcotics-dealing to murder. Twenty-three of them have been charged with racketeering conspiracy, which carries a sentence of seven to 30 years in prison. Those charged with murder could receive life in prison.

The gang allegedly reaped as much as $11 million a year, primarily through hand-to-hand heroin deals near Madison and Pulaski, prosecutors said.

The investigation began after Claude Snulligan was fatally shot in the head with a .40-caliber bullet on Oct. 20. Earlier that year, members of the Black Souls had allegedly beaten and robbed Snulligan because he called the police about selling drugs in front of his home.

Ty Odum, the gang’s reputed second-in-command, was among those Snulligan identified as his attackers, prosecutors said. The gang allegedly tried to bribe Snulligan to drop the robbery case against Odum. An informant told police that he heard Dawson, the Black Souls chief, later ordered Snulligan’s killing.

The Black Souls are among several gangs that have been targeted in the past by Chicago Police under a “group accountability” strategy that holds an entire gang responsible when a single member commits a murder.

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