Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2017
Even in a city where gangs and gun violence have plagued neighborhoods for decades, the Hobos were in a class of their own.
As they built a vast narcotics empire, the Hobos, a so-called “super gang” made up of leaders from rival Chicago street gangs, ruled by fear, federal prosecutors alleged. They robbed drug dealers at gunpoint, kidnapped and tortured rivals, even targeted a former NBA player for a stickup after he was spotted at a nightclub wearing a pricey necklace.
But it was the shootings that truly terrorized communities. Using high-powered weapons, the Hobos opened fire on one victim outside a day care, another at a crowded block party, two more in front of a funeral home. The Hobos went after informants, too, killing one outside a barbershop and ambushing another as he drove up to his suburban home with his fiancee and two young kids.
On Wednesday, a federal jury convicted six reputed Hobos leaders of racketeering conspiracy charges alleging the gang carried out a total of eight murders over the course of a decade as well as a slew of kidnappings, robberies and shootings that left several people gravely wounded.
After a marathon 15-week trial that featured hundreds of witnesses and four days of closing arguments, the jury deliberated into a sixth day before finding all six defendants guilty of the main racketeering count carrying a sentence of up to life in prison.
Four other members of the gang, including Chester’s cousin, pleaded guilty before trial. An 11th Hobo died before charges were handed down, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Not since El Rukn trials two decades ago had so much violence been alleged against a single gang. Heavy security was in place at the courthouse for the duration of the trial, and the names of jurors were kept secret.
Prosecutors allege that the Hobos represented a new breed of gang that was made up of members from various gangs who once were rivals. Many of the Hobos started in the now-demolished Robert Taylor and Ida B. Wells public housing complexes from factions of the Gangster Disciples and the Black Disciples street gangs, according to prosecutors.