Trial Starts For Alleged Coatesville Gang Leader Delbert ``mister'' Franklin Is Charged With Attempted Murder In The Young Guns Case.

Posted: December 09, 1997

An 18-year-old man testified yesterday that the leader of a Coatesville gang known as the Young Guns told him that if he joined the group, he could ``rule the streets.''

``We were taught to use any force necessary,'' said prosecution witness Kenneth Tucker, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for his actions while he was a member of the gang.

For a while, police said, the Young Guns did rule the streets of Coatesville, controlling the local drug trade and threatening anyone who infringed on it. But police and other authorities eventually caught up with the gang and its alleged leader, Delbert ``Mister'' Franklin, whose trial began yesterday.

Franklin, 24, is charged with several counts of attempted murder, robbery, drug possession and criminal corruption. Chester County Assistant District Attorney Susan Fields said Franklin participated in seven shootings and one pistol-whipping between April 1996 and June of this year.

Franklin is one of nine people who were arrested in June after a year-long investigation into the activities of the Young Guns, first by law enforcement officials and then a grand jury.

According to the grand jury investigation, the Young Guns started a gang in Coatesville, and each week, members traveled to Philadelphia to buy nine ounces of cocaine for $10,000. They returned to Coatesville and sold the drugs. Undercover police put a videocamera at Eighth Avenue and Diamond Alley in the East End to record the gang's activity.

Members of the group were charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and corrupt organization and conspiracy. All but Franklin pleaded guilty to lesser charges, some in exchange for an agreement to testify against Franklin.

Gerald Alston, Franklin's attorney, had indicated that his client would also plead guilty, but yesterday said he had changed his mind.

``An offer was made,'' Alston said, ``but he felt he should not take it.''

Yesterday, more than a dozen witnesses testified about shootings that occurred in April and July 1996, and in February 1997. Some witnesses were either unable to or uncomfortable with naming Franklin as the shooter in the incidents.

Witness Mona Lisa London was sitting in Harvey Legree's living room in Coatesville on April 22, 1996, when someone wearing an unusual pair of Adidas sneakers - which she had previously seen Franklin wearing - burst into the home and shot Legree. When the shooter fled, London testified that she followed him and later discovered that it was Franklin.

But under cross-examination, she said: ``I'm not really sure whether or not he did the shooting.''

The jury was shown a video tape of a February shooting in which Franklin and another gang member pulled passengers out of a parked vehicle, shook them down and fired shots as they fled from the car. Several witnesses were asked to identify Franklin in the video.

During the hearing, Franklin wore a dark sweater and white sneakers, and often smiled and waved to family and friends.

Earlier in the day during opening statements, Fields painted a picture of Franklin much different from the amiable person sitting at the defense table.

``The Young Guns were dedicated to violence and drug trafficking. That's what this is all about,'' Fields said. Franklin ``controlled the guns, the money, and he had the connections to get the cocaine.''

Alston said that ``the government was just throwing a bunch of stuff at Franklin and hoping it would stick.''

About 40 witnesses, including police officers, acquaintances and gang members, are expected to testify against Franklin. The trial is expected to be finished Thursday.

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