DETROIT (WWJ) – A leader of the violent Vice Lords Detroit street gang has been sentenced to just over 12 years in prison.
According to the U.S Attorney’s Office, 36-year old Kenneth Smith of Detroit pleaded guilty back in February to RICO conspiracy and one count of failure to appear in court in connection with the non-fatal shooting of four people with an AK-47 assault rifle.
In connection with his plea, federal authorities say Smith admitted he was a leader of the Vice Lords, a national gang broken down into various branches, which includes the Detroit-based Traveling Vice Lords (TVL), which operate in a hierarchical chain of command, answering to the gang’s higher-ups in Chicago and Detroit.
Authorities say Smith admitted that, in May of 2015, he directed members to search for two people who had attempted to leave the gang in order to harm them. According to the indictment, gang members gathered at Smith’s home to discuss their plan and gather firearms, including an AK-47.
Smith further admitted members of the TVL then traveled in multiple cars to the intended victims’ house, including a car owned by Smith’s girlfriend, where TVL members shot four victims with an AK-47. More than two dozen shots were fired. All four suffered gunshot wounds but recovered.
Smith was one of multiple people indicted in January of 2016 in connection with the shooting. Several other defendants, earlier pleaded guilty in the case.
This included another gang leader, 26-year-old Antonio Clark, aka “Cheeto,” who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted murder in aid of racketeering and using and carrying a firearm during a crime.
The charges related to the May 7, 2015 shooting are just one component of the federal government’s prosecution of the Vice Lords, which has led to the arrests and convictions of dozens of gang leaders and members over the last few years. In two trials during March and May 2015, juries convicted eight leaders and members of the Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club, many of whom were also leaders and members of the Vice Lords, for various crimes, including a mass murder plot against a rival organization of the Phantoms and the shooting of a member of another rival organization.