Both federal prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Thursday that Eric Smith has a previous criminal record for drug dealing and robbery.
But they disagreed over whether Smith, 29, of Roosevelt, was a ranking member of a chapter of the Crips street gang who in 2010 shot and killed James McClenic, a leader of the rival Bloods street gang.
To Eastern District federal prosecutor Michael Maffei, Smith was a key player with the leadership title of “the Big Hood” in the Rollin 60s chapter of the gang that “turned the Roosevelt, New York community into a war zone” from 2003 to 2013. “The Big Hoods” are the seconds in command of the gang.
Smith faces up to life in prison if convicted on an 11-count indictment that includes charges of attempted murder, cocaine dealing and robbery.
Furthermore, Maffei said at the opening of Smith’s trial in federal court in Central Islip on racketeering and murder in the killing of McClenic, Smith used the street nickname “Esama the Bomba,” a take on Osama bin Laden, to toughen his street image.
“There is no question that the defendant lived up to his nickname . . .defendant . . . dealt drugs with the gang, robbed for the gang, shot for the gang and killed for the gang, ” said Maffei, the prosecutor who is working with Nicole Boeckmann and Christopher Caffarone.
While acknowledging Smith’s previous felonious history, one of Smith’s defense attorney’s, Anthony LaPinta of Hauppauge, said the witnesses against his client would be mainly former gang members who are manufacturing testimony in order to avoid lengthy sentences.
“The government’s case is based on evil, violent, liars who would sell their grandmothers and bury their friends for self-gain,” said La Pinta, who is defending Smith along with attorney Peter Mayer, also of Hauppague. “They have no credibility.”
Prosecutors said Smith fatally shot McClenic, then 19, several times in the neck while he sat in car in Hempstead on Dec. 15, 2010.
McClenic, who also had played football and run track at Roosevelt High School, was a leader of the local Bloods gang, officials said.
McClenic was marked for assassination because he had “shot at members of the Crips and was taunting and disrespecting them on social media, such as Twitter,” Maffei said.
The leader of the Roosevelt Crips, Raphael Osborne, who was known as “the Big Whale,” was sentenced in January in the same federal court to three life terms plus 145 years.
Federal and Nassau county law enforcement began an intensive crackdown on the Roosevelt Crips in 2011 after a reputed gang member shot a Hempstead policeman in the arm and in his bulletproof vest, officials have said.
At least 20 members or associates have been arrested with most convicted and others awaiting trial, officials have said.
The case is expected to continue next week before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.