At a preliminary hearing Monday in the first-degree murder trial of two men accused of the shooting death of Charles “C.J.” King Jr. Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright said that the February 2010 killing was a “hit” orchestrated by members of a drug-dealing crew of Bloods Gang members led by defendant Gary “G Money” Griffin.
Carnright outlined the case against Griffin and accused trigger-man Trevor “Little T” Mattis in a series of hearings before County Court Judge Don Williams on April 4, two days before jury selection is set to begin in the high-profile trial. The hearings were held to determine whether Carnright can introduce evidence about the hierarchy and criminal activities of Kingston’s “Sex Money Murder” Bloods set at trial.
To place the King murder in its proper context, Carnright argued, he must be allowed to introduce evidence of prior criminal convictions and alleged crimes for which the defendants have not been charged to illustrate the structure of the gang and the role that it played in the killing. Prosecutors are generally barred from discussing “prior bad acts” or uncharged crimes at trial, but the rules may be set aside if the judge determines that their relevance to the case outweighs their prejudicial impact on the jury.
“Trevor Mattis, literally moments after the first time he met C.J. King, killed him,” Carnright said in court. “There was no motive for him to do that other than that he was an executioner for the gang.”
Mattis and Griffin, who will be tried together, are the first of seven alleged Sex Money Murder associates to face trial in the King murder. Both men are charged with first-degree murder based on the prosecution’s claim that they killed King to prevent him from testifying against a fellow gang member. They are also charged with felony counts of intimidating a witness and criminal possession of a weapon. They face life in prison without parole if convicted. Alleged gang members Jarrin “Phat Boy” Rankin, Rondy “Ski” Russ, Jermain “Maino” Nicholas and gang associates Amanda “Blazer Bitch” Miller and Damitria “Meatie” Kelley are charged with felonies for their alleged role in the murder conspiracy.
According to police and prosecutors, King, 21, was killed to prevent him from testifying about a Nov. 21, 2009 shooting on Henry Street by Mattis’ half-brother and fellow SMM gang member Jarrin “Phat Boy” Rankin. Police and King’s family believe that gang members learned that King had provided incriminating evidence against Rankin in a secret grand jury hearing and was set to testify at Rankin’s trial on assault and weapons charges. (Following King’s murder, prosecutors were forced to drop the assault charge; Rankin still faces a felony weapons possession charge in the case).
Authorities believe that Rankin, in a series of phone calls from the Ulster County Jail, reached out to fellow SMM members to discuss a plot to silence King. Carnright said that in the phone calls, which were recorded by the jail’s monitoring system, the gang members used code words, at one point disguising their plotting as a discussion of a basketball game. Carnright added that the gang also discussed suspicions that one of their own members, Lee “Justice” Gray, might testify against Rankin.
“Rankin made calls from the jail dealing with his suspicions and sending directives on how to deal with the issue,” Carnright said.
According to Carnright, gang members pressured Gray to not testify and tried to find King, who left town and moved to Lake George after the grand jury hearing. Carnright said that a member of the gang threatened King’s father, telling him that he and his family would be in danger if his son took the stand at Rankin’s trial. On Jan. 12, 2010, meanwhile, Mattis was released from state prison after serving two years for robbery and assault.
On Feb. 9, 2010, Carnright said, gang members learned that King was back in town, staying with family members on Henry Street. Carnright said that video from a security camera and eyewitness testimony placed Griffin, Mattis and gang member Jermain “Maino” Nicholas with King at the Cedar Street Deli around 6:35 p.m., half a block from the spot on Cedar Street where King was shot and killed 10 minutes later. Carnright added that he planned to introduce a taped statement to police in which Mattis, who was arrested in Poughkeepsie at 3 a.m. the morning after the murder, “made admissions to participating in the shooting death of C.J. King.”
The SMM hierarchy
Carnright said that he would introduce evidence about the hierarchy of the Sex Money Murder gang. At the hearing, Carnright said that Griffin was the crew’s “Big Homie” or leader. According to Carnright, Griffin made regular trips to the Bronx to buy cocaine. Carnright said that Russ served as his driver on these trips until January 2010, a few weeks before the murder, when he was locked up for violating his parole on a 2004 robbery conviction. Miller, who Carnright described as an aspiring gang member, replaced Russ as Griffin’s driver. Miller handled other errands for the gang including, Carnright said, an unsuccessful attempt to slip Rankin a package of marijuana during a Dec. 13, 2009 jail visit. According to Carnright, Griffin distributed the cocaine to gang members, including Russ, Miller and Nicholas and Gray, who handled street level drug sales for the gang.
According to Carnright, Mattis’ association with the Bloods gang dates back to his teens when he, along with Rankin, was affiliated with another Kingston Bloods group known as “Dipset.” In 2004, Mattis and Bloods gang member Willie Pace were arrested for robbing and assaulting a woman in front of the Broadmoor apartments on Broadway. While he was in jail awaiting trial on that charge, Carnright said, corrections officers discovered a jail-issued pillow in his cell that had been inscribed with the words “That’s Us, That East Side Blood Gang Little T.”
Mattis’ attorney, James Winslow, argued against allowing a jury to hear testimony regarding his client’s alleged gang affiliation, calling the evidence “thin” and claiming that police suspicion fell on Mattis because he is Rankin’s half brother, not because of any gang activity.
“I don’t believe that a nickname makes one a gang member,” said Winslow. “This is just throwing a lot at the wall to see if a jury feels something sticks.”
On Tuesday, April 5, Williams ruled that Carnright could introduce the gang testimony. Williams also ruled that Griffin and Mattis could be questioned about prior convictions for gang related crime if they chose to take the witness stand. In another ruling, Williams rejected defense motions to suppress statements given by Griffin and Mattis to police.
Sex Money Murder was founded in the Soundview section of the Bronx by “Pistol” Pete Rollack in the early 1990s. In 1993, the gang became one of the original “sets” of the United Blood Nation, following its formation on Riker’s Island in 1993. UBN, also known as the East Coast bloods formed was formed by African American inmates to challenge the dominance of the Latin Kings in the sprawling jail complex. From Riker’s Island, the movement quickly spread to neighborhoods throughout New York City and eventually all along the East Coats. The East Coast Bloods drew inspiration and customs from their West Coast counterparts (which formed in the early 70’s in Los Angeles) but are otherwise unaffiliated. By the mid-1990’s SMM had established itself in Kingston. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, SMM member Kevin “Beamo” Aller opened a pipeline for crack cocaine from Soundview to Kingston as part of a drug-running operation known to Federal prosecutors as “Baby J’s Crew.” Aller obtained cocaine from senior gang members in the Bronx and set up a distribution system of SMM members and associates in Kingston. In 2002, Aller was convicted on federal racketeering charges and sentenced to life in prison.