Tuesday, February 26, 2013
C.A. Upholds Convictions in Gang-Related Murders
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday upheld the murder convictions of a South Los Angeles gang leader found guilty of killing two members of his own bank robbing crew.
Div. Four rejected arguments that the 2001 killings of Frederick Pettaway, 41, and Willie Williams, 42, grew solely out of the victims’ dispute with defendant David G. Moore over control of the crew, and were not committed for the benefit of the Van Ness Gangsters. Justice Thomas Willhite, in an unpublished opinion, said there was substantial evidence Moore intended the killings to send a message to VNG members who might be tempted to question his authority.
Moore is serving consecutive life-without-parole terms for the murders. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler sentenced him after jurors found him guilty of both killings, with special circumstances of gang-related murder and multiple murders.
Pettaway and Williams were shot near Chesterfield Square Park on July 9, 2001, just two days after Tamille Cooper—a stepdaughter of Rogers Pettaway, Frederick Pettaway’s brother—was killed in a drive-by shooting in the same neighborhood.
Cooper, 19 and a college student, was allegedly shot by a Crips gang member. VNG is a Bloods-affiliated gang of 60 to 80 members, Willhite explained in his opinion.
Several years after the shootings, prosecutors brought the case to trial, calling other VNG members, as well as Rogers Pettaway, as witnesses.
Rogers Pettaway said his brother and Moore had clashed frequently over control of the bank robbing crew, which used a “sucker crew” of young accomplices who would commit robberies and bring the money to the leaders, who would pay fees of $1,500 or less. Williams, a childhood friend of Frederick Pettaway, started as one of the “suckers” but had moved into a leadership position in the crew, which committed six to eight robberies and made approximately $400,000.
As a shot caller in VNG, Moore recruited some of the bank robbers from the gang, although Williams and Frederick Pettaway were not among them.
Witnesses testified that Moore shot the victims while they were all at the scene of a neighborhood barbeque, and that he and the victims had argued earlier on the day of the shooting because the victims wanted to use some of the robbery proceeds to pay for Cooper’s funeral.
Prosecutors also called an LAPD officer who had gathered intelligence on VNG, who testified in response to a hypothetical question that if a leader of the gang killed someone at a public gathering, it would create respect for the leader and fear of the gang in the community, and that “rival gangs now know that someone in [the VNG gang] means all business and is not afraid to kill another human being.”
Based on that testimony, prosecutors argued that the killings had a two-fold motive—to eliminate any question over the leadership of the bank robbery crew, and to further the violent reputation of Moore and VNG.
Willhite, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the testimony furnished sufficient evidence to prove the gang-murder special circumstance because “it is not unreasonable to infer that defendant, a shot caller in the VNG, intended to enhance his reputation and that of his gang by brazenly killing two members of his bank robbery crew in front of fellow VNG members and other persons, thereby demonstrating his viciousness and that of the VNG gang.”
Attorneys on appeal Derek K. Kowata of the Law Offices of Allen G. Weinberg, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Victoria B. Wilson and Viet H. Nguyen for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Moore, B234798.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company