Gang leader, Maurice Antonio Kent convicted of federal charges in connection with nightclub shooting and subsequent murder of 17-year-old witness
(STL.News) A federal jury found Maurice Antonio Kent guilty of RICO Conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, discharging a firearm during the commission of those violent crimes, and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.
“The 135 Pirus gang is a violent criminal organization whose members committed a multitude of crimes, including the horrific execution of a 17-year-old witness,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Kent and his fellow gang members demonstrated an absolute disregard for human life and have now been brought to justice as a result of the strong partnership between federal and local law enforcement. This case, which culminated in a jury verdict convicting Kent of all charges, reflects our office’s resolve to tirelessly investigate and prosecute gangs who drive violence in our communities.”
“The brutal and tragic violence perpetrated by Kent and his fellow gang members is completely shocking and deplorable,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “With this conviction, Kent will no longer be able to commit senseless violence and homicidal acts on our streets. The FBI remains unwavering in our resolve to work with our partners to ensure that individuals like Kent are held accountable for their crimes and to eliminate gang violence from our communities.”
“Gang and organized crime have no place in our community,” said Brookhaven Police Deputy Chief Brandon Gurley. “Organized crime knows no boundaries, and neither should we. The collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office was instrumental to ensure that Kent and his associates were all held accountable for the violent crimes they committed in our city and throughout Georgia.”
“In reference to this investigation, I’d like to credit the Violent Repeat Offender Program (VRO) which is a program conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and has been in place for many years,” said Cartersville Police Chief Frank McCann. “The VRO program puts federal, state, and local law enforcement officers together monthly to take violent repeat offenders off our streets. Positive results when we all work together!”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The 135 Pirus gang originated in Compton, California, and has a national presence, including in the Northern District of Georgia. Kent was a gang leader in northwest Georgia with leadership authority over members in the vicinity of Cartersville and Rome, Georgia. The 135 Pirus are governed by a set of rules, which, among other commands, prohibit its members from cooperating with law enforcement.
In the early morning hours of May 13, 2017, an argument occurred outside a Brookhaven nightclub between a California-based 135 Pirus gang member and a rival gang member. At that time, Kent fired multiple rounds into a crowd of people outside the club, critically wounding the other gang member as well as a club security guard. During his flight from the scene, Kent tossed the firearm from a vehicle just before he was apprehended by police.
Soon after being arrested and while in custody, Kent learned that a 17-year-old fellow gang member, who may have witnessed the shooting, was interviewed by law enforcement. Kent believed he was “snitching.” Two days later, 135 Pirus gang members devised a plan to lure the teenager to Bartow County, Georgia, where they shot and killed him with Kent’s gun, leaving the boy’s body on a rural road.
The jury also heard evidence that eight months prior to the nightclub shooting, in September 2016, Kent committed a drive-by shooting of a man standing in his front yard in Cartersville, Georgia. After that shooting, Kent threw the firearm into Lake Allatoona. The FBI later recovered the gun from the bottom of the lake and matched cartridge casings and a bullet from the drive-by shooting to Kent’s firearm.
In addition to Maurice Antonio Kent a.k.a., “Savage Duze,” 32, of Cartersville, Georgia, a number of other 135 Pirus gang members and associates were previously convicted in this case, including:
Christopher Nwanjoku, a.k.a. “Problem,” 30, a 135 Pirus leader from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was convicted of RICO Conspiracy;
Jamel Dupree Hughes, a.k.a. “Savage,” 27, a 135 Pirus member from Atlanta, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence;
Cedric Sams, Jr., a.k.a. “Awall,” 29, a 135 Pirus member from Cartersville, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death;
Jennifer Foutz, a.k.a. “Rose,” 30, a 135 Pirus member from Acworth, Georgia, was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death; and
Michael Kent, a.k.a. “Wikked,” 32, a 135 Pirus associate from Atlanta, Georgia, who is Maurice Antonio Kent’s twin brother, was convicted of RICO Conspiracy.
In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders. The sentencing hearing for Kent and the other defendants will be scheduled at a later date.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force, with valuable assistance provided by the Brookhaven Police Department, the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, the Cartersville Police Department, and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Morris, who serves as the office’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Co-coordinator, and Michael Herskowitz, Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crime Section, are prosecuting the case.