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Defense: Govt overblowing case by accusing 3 American Indian gang members of racketeering

Three members of an American Indian gang known for terrorizing people in the Upper Midwest used witness retaliation and other tactics to maintain the gang's violent reputation as it operated as a criminal enterprise, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Tuesday at the men's Minnesota trial.

But defense attorneys told jurors that prosecutors were overblowing the case, saying gang members may have committed individual crimes, but that there was no evidence to support racketeering charges that alleged the trio was part of a large, organized criminal group.

Wakinyon Wakan McArthur, an alleged leader of the Native Mob, "is as much a leader of that group as anyone trying to herd a bunch of cats," his defense attorney, Frederick Goetz, told jurors. "You are dealing with feral, wild kids frequently high on drugs and alcohol."

McArthur and two of the gang's alleged "soldiers," Anthony Francis Cree and William Earl Morris, are being tried in Minneapolis on several charges, including conspiracy to participate in racketeering and attempted murder in the aid of racketeering. The three men are the only suspects who didn't accept plea deals after 25 people were charged in a 57-count indictment.

Prosecutors have said the case is important partly because of its size, but also because the racketeering charge is a tool rarely used against gangs, indicating the case is an attempt to take down the entire enterprise. Authorities have called it one of the largest gang cases to come out of Indian Country.

In his closing argument Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter told jurors that the Native Mob's racketeering activity included drug trafficking, attempted murder, murder and witness retaliation.

"To make money, the reputation of the Native Mob has to be intact, and when the reputation is threatened, it has to be protected," Winter said.

According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the Native Mob is one of the largest and most violent American Indian gangs in the U.S., and is most active in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Michigan, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is made up of mostly American Indian men and boys, and started in Minneapolis in the 1990s as members fought for turf to deal drugs. It also is active in prison.

During his closing argument, Goetz accused the government of over-reaching. Just because a crime was committed by members of the Native Mob doesn't mean it has anything to do with his client, he argued.

The trial began in January.

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