ROANOKE — Three more defendants in a major Danville gang prosecution have plea- bargained potential life sentences for gang activity, including a murder, down to no more than 20 years behind bars.
A federal judge in Roanoke received guilty pleas Monday from Tredarius Jameriquan Keene, Montez Lamar Allen and Javontay Jacquis Holland, who admitted responsibility for contributing to a wave of violence and drug dealing in Danville in 2015 and beyond.
As affiliates of the Milla Bloods, a branch of a New York street gang, they admitted roles in a racketeering conspiracy involving violent acts to enrich and strengthen the gang and its members. But the defendants rejected requests to cooperate with law enforcement and insisted they will not. They will be sentenced later.
In 2018, U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen called the case the most significant prosecution of gang crime in Danville in a decade. Many defendants initially faced life in prison; former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to seek the death penalty. A failure on the part of prosecutors to supply state grand jury transcripts to the defense damaged the prosecution, however. Prosecutors offered plea deals without any provision for a life sentence and defendants accepted, avoiding trial. For consistency’s sake, prosecutors have offered similar deals to other defendants on subsequent court dates. No more than two of the nearly 20 defendants will in the end be tried.
Keene, 24; Allen, 23; and Holland, 27, appeared Monday in jail jumpsuits, flanked by two lawyers apiece, before U.S. Judge Michael Urbanski. Each stayed in leg irons for the proceedings.
Prosecutors recounted the key shootings of the case.
On June 15, 2016, Keene orchestrated an attack in which members of the Milla Bloods and a second gang, the Rollin 60s, both went to the Southwyck Apartments on North Hills Court in Danville gunning for two men they knew as the Philly Boys, according to a summary of evidence filed with the court. The assailants began shooting, with Keene firing from the open living room window of an apartment, and injured but did not kill both targets, Dwight Harris and Armonti Womack, court papers said.
The same summer, the Millas and the Rolling 60s agreed they would lure Stevie Wallace, leader of the rival gang the Billy Bloods, to the Southwyck apartments and kill him, court papers said. But when a van entered the complex parking lot the night of Aug. 20, 2016, and gang members opened fire, the rounds killed passenger Christopher Lamont Motley, who was not a target of the gang.
Motley “was by all accounts mistakenly murdered,” Urbanski said. Wallace never showed.
Keene admitted he knew of the August attack’s potential for death, but he said he did not fire his gun. He was told his sentence would fall between 17 years and 20 years.
During Holland’s turn before the judge, he admitted he was outside at the apartment complex during the attack that killed Motley. But when asked by the judge if he fired, Holland did not appear to answer. Holland’s lawyer spoke up and said whether or not Holland had fired would have been disputed had Holland gone to trial.
Urbanski tried again. “Were you out there with a plan to ambush Stevie Wallace?” the judge asked.
“Yes, sir,” Holland said.
Holland was told his sentence would fall between 15 years and 17 years. “That’s a lot different than life in prison,” Urbanski told him.
As for Allen, a fellow gang member “took” Allen’s gun before the shooting that ended Motley’s life, but Allen was guilty of helping dispose of the gun afterward, knowing it had been fired, court papers said. During the shooting, Allen was inside an apartment, he told Urbanski. However, a witness who would have testified if there had been a trial told authorities that Allen left the apartment and was outside, according to Heather Carlton, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Prosecutors and Allen signed a plea deal setting his incarceration between 15 years and 17 years, but Urbanski declined to agree to the deal on the spot. The judge postponed the decision on the sentencing hearing, saying he expected to have additional needed information by then.
“I need to ensure I’m doing my job to do equal justice in this case,” Urbanski said.