The “founding father” of a violent Crips gang firmly ruled over a criminal enterprise that sold drugs, smuggled guns, killed three rival members, and waged a gang war in Roosevelt, federal prosecutors argued Tuesday.
But Garden City attorney John Carman said his client, Raphael Osborne, is the fall guy for crimes committed by others — in some instances when Osborne was in prison — and prosecutors were relying on testimony of “people who fought their own battles and shot their own enemies.”
Prosecutors allege that Osborne, 29, known on the streets as “Gusto,” led the Rollin 60s, a set of the Crips gang who brought hundreds of guns to Long Island, using them to rob drug dealers and retaliate against Bloods gang members in Roosevelt.
“He is responsible for the crime wave that wreaked havoc on Roosevelt day after day after day from 2003 to 2013,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Boeckmann said in closing arguments before the jury in federal court in Central Islip after three weeks of testimony.
Nassau authorities arrested Osborne and more than a dozen other Rollin 60s members and associates in April 2013.
Osborne faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious offenses of a 21-count indictment charging him with racketeering, drug conspiracy, attempted murder and other crimes.
Osborne did not testify and scribbled notes on a pad during the arguments.
Prosecutors said Osborne was the “Big Whale” of the gang that he started in 2003 and there was a hierarchy, with regular meetings, sometimes held in Roosevelt Park, and established rules to shoot, stab, or beat rivals Bloods “on sight.”
“The Crips wanted to be feared and the defendant was the ultimate Crip,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone said, describing Osborne as a “Crip to the bone.”
Caffarone said one of the three victims was Kail Ferro, 17, of Queens, who was “murdered at the hands of the Crips” for venturing into Crips territory in 2006.
Carman, arguing that his client did not run what prosecutors say was a criminal enterprise, said there was no organization with any framework. “An enterprise does not exist because it has a catchy name,” Carman said.
He said there was also no evidence of ceremonial inductions into the gang nor evidence that Osborne meted out punishment or communicated with gang members while he was in custody.
Carman also questioned the government’s assertion that Osborne ordered shooting of Bloods members “on-sight.”
“This is a mechanism that they use to hold Raphael Osborne responsible for things other people did,” Carman said.
Prosecutors argue that one Crips gang member Maurice Gardiner violated one of Osborne’s rules of never cooperating with police, prompting Osborne to instruct 17-year-old Denzel Smith to shoot Gardiner. Smith, who wanted to become a Crip, followed the order, shooting Gardiner and paralyzing him, prosecutors said.
But Carman challenged the credibility of Smith and of his testimony of an alleged meeting with Osborne, where Smith said Osborne gave the order. “He’s the one that put five bullets in Maurice Gardiner’s back,” Carman said of Smith.
Boeckmann acknowledged some government witnesses are people who are “killers” that Osborne surrounded himself with. But their testimony was corroborated by evidence, she said, including wiretaps on about 1,500 calls on which Osborne is heard talking about drug deals, gun trafficking and other crimes.
“The defendant is the leader of the Rollin 60s. You heard it from witness, after witness, after witness,” Boeckmann said.