(RTN Throwback) Reputed Top 6 gang leader sentenced to 65 years in prison

 

Reputed Top 6 gang leader sentenced to 65 years in prison

Whether music group or gang, allegiance to Top 6 earned Futo Charles 65 years in prison.

It took jurors less than three hours Friday to find the 30-year old guilty on charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, possession of marijuana and ecstasy. Circuit Judge Karen Miller soon afterward handed him the maximum sentence allowed.

Both the verdict and sentence ended a two-week trial where the death of Eguel Geffrard, a witness expected to testify in the case, elevated tensions both in and out of the courtroom. Miller ordered a partial sequestration of jurors.

West Palm Beach Police Spokesman Chase Scott confirmed Friday that Geffrard, 25, was shot to death while attending a birthday party early Monday morning. His body was found in a West Palm Beach parking lot at the 1600 block of Forum Place.

After Miller delivered the sentence, Charles’ defense attorney Marianne Rantala called it “very harsh.” She had tried unsuccessfully to convince Miller to give Charles a sentence that would “at least give him a chance to live outside of incarceration.”

“They maxed him out,” Rantala said. “I was expecting it.”

Rantala said Charles’ trial was replete with issues that could get his conviction and sentence thrown out on appeal.

On Tuesday, she tried to enter into the court file A Palm Beach Post article on Geffrard’s death. A juror in the case said his daughter contacted him and expressed concerns for his safety, but did not mention an article.

“But I think if any of them had (read the article), in their minds it would have been an immediate guilty verdict,” Rantala said.

Charles had accepted two potential plea agreements in the case since his December 2008 arrest – one for an 8-year prison sentence and another for 15 years.

Miller in both cases rejected those deals, saying the first was too lenient in light of sentences handed to other Top 6 members and the second insufficient because Charles refused to say as part of the deal that Top 6 was a gang.

The indictment of Top 6 members was one of the first issued by the statewide grand jury on gangs in December 2007.

Two other Top 6 members had been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison before Charles’ trial.

Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Brian Fernandes argued that Top 6 was a criminal enterprise involved in narcotics-related crime that beseiged areas of Lake Worth and parts of Palm Beach County.

Fernandes pressed jurors to believe that association in fact equaled membership within Top 6, arguing that R.I.P. shirts and photographs of men holding up five and one fingers denote gang affiliation.

“They all represent the same thing with their symbol–a five and a one,” said Fernandes.

Members of Top 6 denied they were a gang. Rantala said Top 6 was a rap group, in which Charles played a minor role, and that none of what members did amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Charles, who did not testify in his own defense during the trial, showed little reaction to the verdict and sentence.

On his way out of the courtroom he turned to the gallery, blew his mother a kiss and threw a peace sign to his friend, Jimmy Petitdieu, who during the trial testified that Top 6 was a rap group he produced.

“I love you guys,” he said.

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