Four more defendants plead guilty in Cut Throat case

Friday, July 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Four more defendants in gang-related cases have pleaded guilty to federal charges over the last three days, according to a news release from United States Attorney Matt J. Whitworth.

On Wednesday, Dajuan Anthony Harris, 26, pleaded guilty in the Western District Court of Missouri to counts in a federal indictment that includes charges of the transfer and use of firearms in connection with a drug trafficking operation. On Tuesday, Cheviss Caron Denny, 21; Ryan Montez Kee, 22; and Robert Lee Jones, 19, also pleaded guilty to counts in that indictment.

The men are among 16 defendants accused of being associated with the Cut Throat gang. They were initially charged with drug and gun offenses in February. According to a grand jury indictment filed in April, from January 2007 to January 2009 the defendants trafficked cocaine and marijuana and were involved in several gun-related incidents, including three drive-by shootings in Columbia and Jefferson City.

The four pleas come after three defendants in the indictment, William Ricky Boyd, 21; Tarron Montez Cason, 26; and Michael Lee Stapleton, 23, pleaded guilty on Monday to gun and drug charges, including their involvement in the May 31, 2008, drive-by shooting at a Petro Mart gas station located at 3300 Falling Leaf Drive.

The shooting was an attempt to get revenge against a man who they thought was responsible for shooting an associate of the gang at a Break Time gas station at 1000 Smiley Lane on June 2, 2007, the news release states.

That shooting was due in part to a territorial dispute between the Cut Throat gang and a rival gang for the distribution of narcotics, officials have said.

During the 2008 shooting, a 29-year-old male bystander was shot in the face, but the wound was not fatal. It was later determined that the wounded man had not been involved in the first shooting. 

Robert Darnell Simmons, 36, pleaded guilty to his involvement in that shooting, as well as other charges, on May 21. He was the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges.

Kee, Jones and Harris admitted their involvement in the 2008 shooting, and Denny admitted that he was present during the 2007 shooting.

Denny and Jones both admitted to possessing firearms as part of a narcotics operation. Kee pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute.

On July 8, 2008, during a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in Boone County, authorities pulled over Jones and Kee, and discovered cocaine and marijuana in their vehicle, which they admitted they were transporting for the purposes of redistribution, the release states.

Denny could receive a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, and a maximum sentence of life in prison. Jones could receive as many as 39 years in prison without parole, Kee could receive 20 years without parole and Harris could receive 14 years without parole.

Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney, said the remaining defendants could be tried by the end of the month.

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