Thursday, March 22, 2001

Gang law used for first time in county

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An undercover operation to curb drug-dealing in Roselawn resulted Wednesday in Hamilton County's first use of a state law aimed at stopping gangs.

        A grand jury returned indictments against five men accused last month of various drug offenses.

        The additional indictments — for participation in a criminal gang — could add up to eight years' prison time to what each of the five could face on the initial charges.

        The law has been available to police and prosecutors since January 1999.

        This case fit the law because undercover police officers determined, by watching the men and buying cocaine and marijuana from them, that they worked as a team, said Sgt. James Gramke, gang unit supervisor. The law requires that three or more people work together with the primary purpose of committing crime.

        Sgt. Gramke said the dealers worked around a strip of businesses in the 7700 block of Reading Road.

        County Prosecutor Mike Allen said he expects defense attorneys to challenge the law as unconstitutional because it allows prosecutors to charge someone with two crimes for the same offense.

        But Mr. Allen said the law should withstand that legal challenge. It is similar, he said, to organized crime statutes that have been on the books for years.

        Complaints from the neighborhood led to the initial drug investigation, Sgt. Gramke said. Those officers alerted the gang unit when they thought the men were working together.

        The men charged are: Anthony Jasper, 23, of Golf Manor; Tony Whiting Jr., 19, of Roselawn; Clifford Piphes, 20, of Roselawn; Derrick McCall, 23, and Charles Bennett, 31, whose residences were not available Wednesday.


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