Chester gangsters convicted on drug, murder charges

Posted: April 13, 2006

Three members of a Chester neighborhood drug gang known as the Boyle Street Boys were convicted yesterday in federal court of racketeering, drug dealing and homicide charges, including the execution-style slaying of a woman who had agreed to testify against the leader of the group.

Brothers Vincent and Jamain Williams and Andre Cooper face possible death sentences following a penalty phase hearing set to begin Tuesday.

The three defendants were found guilty of participating in a series of gangland killings, including the October 2001 slaying of Tracey Saunders, who had begun cooperating with the FBI after making several illegal gun purchases for Vincent Williams.

The slaying of the 33-year-old mother of two sparked a massive federal investigation and eventually led to evidence of three other homicides that were included in the racketeering case.

Yesterday's convictions come after a series of state and federal cases in which witness intimidation has been a cause of prosecutorial concern. The Boyle Street Boys trial began the same week the FBI launched a campaign to encourage crime witnesses to "Step up, Speak up."

Saunders' brother, Rodney Bradley, said he hoped the guilty verdicts would encourage others to come forward in similar cases.

"I'm happy for my family, for my mother and Tracey's kids," Bradley, a music teacher, said after the verdicts were announced.

"We can begin to heal knowing that justice was served. They won't be able to hurt another mother's child like they hurt my mother's."

Saunders was gunned down the night before she was to appear in federal court to enter a guilty plea to the gun purchase violations.

Brian Rogers, an admitted member of the gang who began cooperating after he was indicted on murder and narcotics charges, told the jury he pumped two bullets into Saunders' head after Vincent Williams ordered her execution.

Saunders worked at a Rite Aid and struggled with a drug addiction, according to trial testimony. To earn extra money, she had agreed to buy guns for Vincent Williams, who was her cousin. With the money supplied by Williams, she falsely claimed on the gun-purchase applications that she was to be the owner of the weapons.

In all, Saunders admitted to making seven gun purchases. Most were handguns, but one was an assault rifle, according to trial testimony.

Following eight days of deliberation, the jury of seven men and five women found all three defendants guilty of the Saunders murder. They were also found guilty of murder conspiracy in aid of racketeering and of witness tampering by murder. But the jury found all three not guilty of "retaliation against a witness . . . by murder."

Since the case is still pending, there was no explanation for the seeming inconsistency.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Faith Moore Taylor and Nancy Beam Winter, the co-prosecutors of the case, declined to comment, as did defense attorneys.

The penalty phase before the same jury and U.S. District Court Judge J. Curtis Joyner is expected to take about three weeks.

Jamain Williams was also found guilty of murdering Randolph Harris, who was killed, authorities said, after winning $10,000 from Williams while shooting dice.

All three defendants were found guilty of murdering Karriem Washington. Vincent Williams and Cooper were found guilty of murdering Antonio Rykard.

Washington, authorities said, was killed over a dispute with the drug gang. Cooper was the shooter in that slaying, authorities said. Rykard, 16, was killed by Vincent Williams, authorities charged, because Williams incorrectly believed he was cooperating with investigators.

Vincent Williams also was convicted of firearms violations tied to the gun purchases made by Saunders.

All three defendants were convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Contact staff writer George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or ganastasia@phillynews.com.

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