Judges tosses part of prosecutors' case against alleged Buck Wild gang
Tue June 14, 7:15PM
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes gave the prosecutor one last chance Tuesday to convince him not to throw out conspiracy and racketeering charges against five men accused of being members of the alleged Riviera Beach gang Buck Wild.
The moment came near the end of a six-week trial following an extensive two year investigation into what the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office called one of the county's most violent street gangs.
Kastrenakes had sharply criticized the prosecution, characterizing its ambitious case as a "kitchen-sink" that combined charges against the men which were clearly unrelated to any alleged criminal conspiracy.
When his turn came, Assistant State Attorney Greg Kridos walked to the podium and threw his arms out, exasperated .
"I'm sorry, I have just sat, and sat, and sat while my office has been chastised for this case," Kridos told Kastrenakes. "Let's give it to the jury and let them decide."
In the end, Kastrenakes did that, allowing jurors to still consider the main charges against the five. But the judge threw out a significant number of charges prosecutors had wanted jurors to consider when deciding whether or not the men conspired in a criminal enterprise to make money.
Among the charges against Marquis Alfred, 20; James Anderson, 22; Larry Coe, 25; Quamaine Falana, 19; and James Roundtree, 22, that Kastrenakes tossed were several against Coe for check forgery, a 2010 burglary in which Falana was implicated, and a weapons and drug charge against Roundtree which the judge found could not be linked to the alleged conspiracy.
Kastrenakes also asked a second prosecutor, Cheryl Caracuzzo, why he should allow jurors to weigh racketeering charges based on a case where none of the defendants are being charged with crimes they committed together, adding that there has been no precedent for such a case in Florida.
Caracuzzo said prosecutors' unusual presentation was reflective of Buck Wild's unique nature as a non-traditional street gang with no hierarchy.
Alfred's attorney, Thomas Montgomery, told Kastrenakes that if prosecutors wanted to rid Riviera Beach of the alleged Buck Wild members, they could have sought enhanced penalties against them for their individual crimes rather than charge them collectively on conspiracy charges.
Other defense attorneys, including Coe's attorney, Franklin Prince, agreed.
"It's more than clear that the state overreached in this case," Prince said.
Prosecutors said some of the cases Kastrenakes threw out were charges attorneys on both sides had agreed to let go, but defense attorneys left court Tuesday calling the judge's ruling a resounding victory indicative of the weaknesses in the state's case.
Kastrenakes on Wednesday will deliver deliberating instructions to jurors, but the panel will not begin deliberations until June 27.