“Top” Blood, Rapper’s Pal, Pleads Not Guilty
by Nicolás Medina Mora Pérez | May 23, 2012 2:07 pm
Posted to: Legal Writes, Dwight
The accused head of New Haven’s Tre Bloods gang appeared in federal court to proclaim his innocence, as a prosecutor raised his affiliation with a “Krew” linked to a prominent rapper.
That happened at a hearing in U.S. District Court Wednesday, one day after the feds completed the largest-ever criminal sweep in Connecticut’s history. The investigation—called Operation Bloodline—targeted New Haven’s Tre Bloods gang. Centered in the Dwight-Kensington neighborhood, the Bloods are responsible for much of New Haven’s crack dealing and tit-for-tat deadly street violence, according to the feds.
Jameel “Biggs” Wilkes was one of 105 people indicted in the operation. He was one of 90 people agents arrested in two raids over the past week. (Read about that here.)
When Wilkes appeared before Magistrate Joan G. Margolis at a pre-trial detention Wednesday, prosecutors called him the leader of the New Haven Tre Bloods. They also said he runs a sub-group called the “Klean Up Krew” that operates as a front for the gang. “Klean Up” is street jargon for shooting somebody.
Family members present at the hearing insisted that the Krew is simply a music group, and that “Biggs” has nothing to do with the Bloods. Biggs and the Klean Up Crew are featured in a 2010 video filmed in Dwight-Kensington by NYC rapper French Montana.
Wilkes’ hearing took place in Room 5 of the Church Street federal courthouse. U.S. Assistant Attorneys Dave Vatti and Marc Silverman were the prosecutors in the case. Robert G. Golger served as Wilkes’ attorney.
The “Big Homie”
The prosecutors asked that Wilkes, who’s being held without bond, remain in jail for the duration of his trial. They argued that Wilke’s release posed “risk of flight” and “danger to the community.”
“Mr. Wilkes,” argued Vatti, “was what is known as the ‘Big Homie’ of the Tre Bloods, which means that he was the highest-ranking gang member in New Haven.”
Vatti went on to say that Wilkes was also a member of a group known as the “Klean Up Krew,” which he linked to the Bloods. He reported that undercover agents had made “controlled purchases” of crack from Wilkes during the year-long Operation Bloodline investigation. He said that the feds had tapped Wilkes’ phone for 90 days, and that some of the information obtained from the wiretap was cause for concern.
“For example, your honor,” said Vatti, “a man who had been assaulted texted Mr. Wilkes. I’m going to read you the text ...”
“Please, your honor, I must object,” interrupted Golger. “There are members of the media here.”
Golger requested a stipulation without prejudice—which means that his client wikk be held without bond, but also gives the defense the opportunity to request another hearing to fight for his release once more information about the case has been released.
Golger later explained the reasons for his request. He said that at this stage the defense is not given access to the prosecutor’s evidence before hearing it in court, which places the defendant at a disadvantage. For example, he said he couldn’t prepare an effective response to the prosecutor’s text-message evidence without having seen it beforehand.
“You’re better off waiting until you can answer their allegations,” he said.
Margolis granted the stipulation, and the court went into recess. Wilkes, a large man wearing a green prison jumpsuit, turned to face his family with a look of incredulity on his face.
“The highest-ranking member!” he said, shaking his head.
After the recess began the arraignment portion of the hearing. Wilkes pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute; and actual distribution. He faces between 10 years and life in jail.
He was subsequently taken back to jail in handcuffs.
Outside the courtroom stood four young women who identified themselves as Wilkes’ sisters. They were visibly upset and declined to give their names.
““He’s not the man they depict him to be,” one of them said, tears in her eyes. “He’s a kind, loving man who helps everyone. He’s not Blood. He can go anywhere in the city and people love him.”
Addicted To Money
The sisters went on to claim that the Klean Up Krew has nothing to do with the Bloods.
“It’s a music group!” one of them exclaimed. “It’s something he started to stop the violence, to get the kids off the streets. There are CDs being sold—you can even find videos in YouTube!”
Click on the play arrow to watch one of those music videos. It was released by noted NYC rapper French Montana, who shot it in New Haven, where he has been a frequent visitor for several years. Wilkes and many other young men appear with Montana throughout the video in “Klean Up Krew” T-shirts. Montana shot it in the Dwight-Kensington neighborhood, the heart of the Tre Bloods’ territory.
The title of the song in the video: “Addicted To Money.”
While introducing Montana at the start of the video, Wilkes welcomes people to “New Haven, Connecticut. You come out here, you won’t leave, nigga.” He appears later in the video alongside the rapper.
“Operation Bloodline” investigators have focused on that video and the alleged Bloods’ affiliation with Montana since early in the probe.
“Now you’re in prison. Wonderful job :D,” one commenter wrote on the 2010 video’s YouTube page Wednesday.
“They associate it with the Bloods,” said another family member. “But just ‘cause you wear red and black doesn’t mean you’re Blood.”
“And that shit about how he’s the highest-ranking member!” said a third. “You know why they call him Biggs? ‘Cause he’s overweight.”
The sisters did not address the government’s allegations of controlled purchases of crack or the information gathered through the phone tap.
“Music is freedom of speech,” said the first. “People go through a lot of things—and this is the way they express themselves. The Tre [Dwight-Kensington neighborhood] is the most impoverished part of New Haven. So what you expect these kids to do? Biggs was giving them a way out.”
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There’s what, about six shots of them posing with pit bull puppies?
Tell me there’s no dog fighting here.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 23, 2012 3:05pm
The music video was also partly shot across town in Farnam Courts, which you can see in the background of both images featured in this article.
Mr. Wilkes seems like a very pleasant man who has never been in trouble with the law. Why the police are persecuting him like this? I pray that Bill Cosby or Joe Clark will come to New Haven to testify on his behalf, and let the court know what an upstanding gentleman Jameel really is.
My first comment wasn’t posted But again Mr Wilkes IS NOT the head of the Tre Bloods, he’s just the manager of the Klean Up Krew, trying to get these kids out of New Haven by means of music. And is Nickname is Biggs do to is stature!
Gang signs, liberal use of the N word and swearing, pit bull puppies, drinking in public, grotesque materialism, what is not to like?
2 baby pitbulls <3
how adorable they are.
it seems like a huge crowd is
not a good environment for them.
I thought the raid was focused on gang violence.I’m interested to hear how many guns they recovered and how many shootings and homicides have been traced to these men? I know that without effective counsel they are guilty until proven innocent.It might be shocking but a group of young Black men in possession of pitbulls doesn’t equate to dog fighting.
Would you be interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge from me?
@ramoneson: Sounds like you are the one buying what is being sold. I can see all through the propaganda. Bet you believed Sadaam had weapons of mass destruction too.(smile)
Mr. Wilkes and his friends are bragging about their criminal activity in the video. If they’re dumb enough to incriminate themselves, and post it on YouTube, then why should you be surprised that the cops want to prosecute them?
I can’t wait to hear your rejoinder, I’m sure it will be an entertaining one.
posted by: streever on May 27, 2012 8:16pm
I really hope this man wasn’t picked and selected as the leader based on producing rap videos: if that alone makes him the leader of the Bloods, the Feds may wish to investigate Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem for their connections to New Haven’s Bloods….
If Mr. Wilkes was only picked for his role in rap videos, I smell a terrific civil liberties case.
I love your comment, i feel exactly the same way, the FEDS might as well pick up every Hip Hop artist out there if their going off of make believe lyrics!
Gangster rap is music that actively promotes crime. If Snoop Dog, Puff Daddy and Eminem are glorifying the criminal lifestyle, then I wouldn’t mind seeing their civil liberties abridged. Freedom of speech doesn’t cover yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre.
However, if a rapper like Chuck D or Grandmaster Flash has something of social value to say, or if Biz Markie wants to make us laugh, then I’m all for it. I’m not opposed to all rap, but I am opposed to crime.
@Ranmonesfan: did you not know that rap music is entertainment and many of those “boasting” have not lived their lyrics. Rap is an art of storytelling.Some lyrics true, some strictly entertainment.Again, I still have the Brooklyn Bridge. I have a special price for you. Ever heard about the Tulia Texas story of drug raids that following an ACLU and NAACP investgation found many falsely arrested AND convicted on cases built on corrupt law enforcement and a well paid snitch? neve heard of it? check it out. Tulia is just one example of how corrupt this war on drugs is.
Ramonesfan: Imagine if the feds went after everyone whose art we didn’t appreciate. There is crime emanating from Congress, White House, local, state and federal government and beyond. Rap artists didn’t inititate crime and targetting them won’t end it.
posted by: streever on May 29, 2012 2:33pm
I would suggest that you are being insensitive to cultural differences: my apologies, but I’m going to reference your handle here. As a ramones fan, you must be aware that they have songs that speak about violence being committed by the singer—drug abuse—and a host of other things which, while quite tame by modern standards, were very upsetting to people at the time.
I’m not so comfortable dismissing people based on their music nor am I comfortable locking them up based on the prevalent cultural (white) view of their music.