CHICAGO — A federal jury in Chicago on Wednesday found six purported gang members guilty of carrying out the brazen 2020 murder of drill rapper FBG Duck in the city’s posh Gold Coast neighborhood.
The jury of five men and seven women, who have remained anonymous due to security concerns surrounding the case, deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before announcing it had reached a verdict, finding the group guilty of the murder in furtherance of a racketeering scheme.
Guilty in the slaying of Duck, whose real name was Carlton Weekly, are Charles Liggins, 32, Kenneth Roberson, 30, Christopher Thomas, 24, Marcus Smart, 25, Tacarlos Offerd, 32, and Ralph Turpin, 34.
All six defendants are purportedly members or associates of O-Block, a rival faction of Black Disciples based in the Parkway Gardens housing complex named in honor of Odee Perry, a fellow gang member killed in 2011. Each defendant faces up to life in prison.
The jury delivered a mixed verdict on other lesser counts.
Prosecutors alleged the high-profile killing of Weekly was part of a deadly, yearslong conflict between two South Side gang factions who boasted about their exploits and eliminating rivals through drill rap tracks that often name-dropped specific victims.
But in her closing argument Wednesday, the attorney for the lead defendant, Liggins, accused prosecutors of losing the “ability to distinguish entertainment fantasy from reality,” portraying the South Side rap culture as a lucrative entertainment business that reflected the violence of Chicago’s streets but in no way qualified as evidence in a murder case.
Even Duck’s diss track “Dead Bitches,” which mocked Liggins’ slain associates in the O-Block gang faction and, according to prosecutors, led to his own fatal shooting, was “good business” for Weekly, as well as his main rival, drill rapper King Von, attorney Cynthia Giacchetti said.
“Part of YouTube promotion is click bait. That’s what this was about,” Giacchetti said in her two-hour closing remarks to jurors. “Mr. Weekly knew it ... it’s marketing and promotion.”
And it was making them both rich, Giacchetti said, noting that King Von was known for “buying diamonds” for his entire entourage while, on the afternoon of his slaying, Weekly was “shopping at the most exclusive and expensive street in Chicago.”
“This is not fanning the flames of murder, this is fanning the flames of capitalism, making money for everybody,” Giacchetti said.
In rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Julien said it was actually the defendants who had a problem with reality, displaying on courtroom monitors some of the shooting victims the jury heard about during the racketeering trial, beginning with the 2011 killing of 15-year-old Shondale “Tooka” Gregory at a South Side bus stop.
“He was murdered in real life,” Julien said. “He wasn’t murdered in a recording studio. He’s no longer here.”
Julien also argued most of the defendants, including Liggins, weren’t rappers in their own right, and their social media posts extolling murder and violence weren’t an effort to win any Grammys.
“That’s because O-Block is a criminal enterprise,” Julien said. “It’s not a record label. It’s not Motown. It’s not Graceland. It’s a violent street gang that murders people and sells drugs. That’s the reality.”
The killings, which occurred over a period of nearly a decade, “culminated for your purposes in the murder of this man,” Julien told the jury, displaying a photo of a smiling Weekly, holding his young son as they stood next to a Paw Patrol character.
Watching the arguments from an overflow courtroom, Weekly’s mother, LaSheena Weekly, quietly dabbed at the tears streaming down her face as Julien spoke.
The closing arguments got underway Friday after about two months of trial testimony featuring more than 30 witnesses and some 450 exhibits
According to trial testimony, Weekly, a member of the STL faction of Gangster Disciples, was targeted for death by King Von, whose real name was Dayvon Bennett, after Weekly released his diss track “Dead Bitches” in 2020.
On the afternoon of Aug. 4, 2020, Weekly was shopping for a birthday present for his son on East Oak Street when Turpin happened to walk into the same Dolce & Gabbana store and immediately called his gang associates to alert them, prosecutors said.
Attorneys for the six defendants, however, said that none of the identifications was believable, and that most of those witnesses were paid informants and YouTube opportunists who were lying either to save their own skin or to cash in on Weekly’s high-profile killing.
At the center of the prosecution’s case were security and surveillance videos that purportedly showed Turpin making the fateful call shortly before the other defendants allegedly could be seen “scrambling” at Parkway Gardens, running up stairwells and changing clothes before driving to the Gold Coast.
Although the shooters were wearing masks, several prosecution witnesses identified the defendants in the videos based largely on their clothing and other identifying features.
Attorneys for the six defendants, however, said that none of the identifications were believable, and that most of those witnesses were paid informants and YouTube opportunists who were lying either to save their own skin or to cash in on Weekly’s high-profile killing.
“They were the worst witnesses I’ve ever been subjected to,” said Turpin’s attorney, Marc Barnett, who called them alternately profane, disrespectful and untruthful.
“They claimed to know everything about the underbelly of Chicago, but they had nothing to say about Ralph Turpin,” Barnett said. “None of us signed up for that. You guys certainly did not. You all deserved much better.”
Steve Greenberg, Roberson’s attorney, called on jurors to consider the motivations for the cooperating witnesses.
“Liars don’t become truthful just because they take an oath to tell the truth,” Greenberg said. “The people testifying, in large part, I don’t think they really care about that. I don’t think an oath means anything to them.”
In his rebuttal, though, Julien said prosecutors brought in a broad cross-section of witnesses, and if some of them were gang members and violent criminals, it’s because that was the world the defendants lived in and it’s impossible to “fire up the DeLorean” and go back in time and change it.
“The people that you heard from, some of them, maybe most of them, didn’t want to be here,” he said. “But you heard from them. We didn’t try to hide anything.”