Byron Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a slew of violence on Chicago’s South Side. (Illinois Department of Corrections)
Hobos gang member Byron Brown was bent on revenge over the shooting of an associate in 2007 when he came across semipro basketball player Eddie Moss Jr. in rival gang territory and ordered him to the pavement at gunpoint, federal prosecutors said.
Without saying a word, Brown fired 10 shots into Moss’ back. Moss’ father heard the gunfire and rushed outside just in time to see his 24-year-old son take his dying breath.
On Wednesday, the elder Moss watched from a federal courtroom gallery as Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a slew of violence on Chicago’s South Side that began with the slaying of his son.
Over an eight-month period ending in July 2008, Brown took part in at least four other murders, as well as armed robberies, kidnappings and torture that prosecutors said amounted to the work of a terrorist.
"Your conduct reflects a depravity and indifference to humanity and the norms of civilized conduct that is astounding," U.S. District Judge John Tharp said in handing down the life sentence. "Never again should the people of Chicago have to worry about Byron Brown and what he might be up to."
In pleading guilty in 2014 to racketeering conspiracy and murder, Brown admitting he committed three of the murders and was present at two others. In exchange for his help, prosecutors initially agreed to recommend a sentence of 35 to 40 years in prison.
But Brown’s false testimony about one of the 2008 murders cost him the reduced sentence, prosecutors said. Brown admitted he had lied in a signed affidavit, yet he still tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea, citing ineffective counsel.
Because of Brown’s lies , prosecutors were unable to present evidence of Moss’ murder at the recent trial of six reputed leaders of the Hobos. But after 15 weeks of testimony, a jury convicted kingpin Gregory "Bowlegs" Chester and alleged gang lieutenants Paris Poe, Arnold Council, Gabriel Bush, Derrick Vaughn and William Ford of racketeering conspiracy involving eight other slayings.
Those six defendants are scheduled to be sentenced June 23. Four face mandatory life sentences while two others face the possibility of life imprisonment.
Among the crimes Brown pleaded guilty to was the January 2008 slaying of Larry Tucker, who was shot in front of his girlfriend and her two young children after Brown and two accomplices — including his now-deceased twin brother — barged in looking for narcotics and other valuables.
In May 2008, Brown shot Kenneth Mosby after he and his brother had gone to the South Side to find a drug dealer to rob, prosecutors said. Days later, Brown and fellow Hobos member Rodney Jones approached Daniel Dupree while he was sleeping in his Cadillac and tried to rob him of an expensive watch. When Dupree awoke and resisted, Brown shot him in the chest, prosecutors said.
Finally, that July, Brown was fleeing the scene of a robbery with two other gang members when the getaway car crashed into another vehicle, killing its driver, Tommye Ruth Freeman. Brown was later convicted of murder in state court in Freeman’s death and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In addition to the murders, Brown admitted to a series of armed robberies, including one where he tortured a resident by stabbing him in the face 11 times to force him to give up the location of narcotics, prosecutors said.
On Wednesday, shortly before he was sentenced, Brown shuffled up to the lectern with shackles on his ankles and read a brief apology to the relatives of his victims who were in the courtroom, including the elder Moss, a sister of Mosby’s and Freeman’s daughter.
"My deepest condolences to the family," Brown, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, said as he turned to look in the general direction of the audience. "I’m sorry for what I did and have a nice day."
Brown also said he’s changed in the nine years he’s been locked up. He said he’s come to realize that he and his fellow gang members had been "programmed" by the drugs and daily violence they saw growing up on the South Side to accept a certain way of life.
But Tharp said that while it was sad Brown lived through a troubled youth, "hundreds of thousands of other people have done the same thing without becoming mass murderers."
"That’s not on the city of Chicago. That’s not on your neighbors, your friends or family," the judge said. "That is on you."