By Stella Lorence
BU News Service
BOSTON – Two members of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queen Nation appeared in court Wednesday after being arrested in a sweep of over 60 associated members on charges of drug trafficking and violent crimes.
Co-defendants Hector Vega, or “King Demon,” and Juan Liberato, or “King Prodigy,” were both charged with conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.
Vega, from Connecticut, was a member of the “Crown Council for Connecticut,” according to the affidavit of Special Agent Dominic Coppo.
“The gang uses drug distribution to generate revenue, and is motivated by a desire to further its influence and to protect its turf from rival gangs,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
The group is responsible for more than ten murders, and numerous robberies, shootings and stabbings, the statement said.
Liberato, of Haverhill was an Inca, or leader, of the Massachusetts chapter of the Latin Kings, according to Coppo’s affidavit. Neither defendant has any prior arrest or conviction for drug, violence or gun charges, though Vega has a prior conviction for criminal trespassing from 2008, according to his defense attorney, Henry Fasoldt.
Prosecutor Phillip Mallard called Special Agent Joshua Roussel to the witness stand while arguing for the continued detention of Vega and Liberato on grounds of violence, flight risk and obstruction of justice.
“I’d say the danger … is present, clear and still exists,” Mallard said in his closing argument. “Just from the evidence today, I’d say there’s sufficient evidence to convict.”
Roussel was questioned Wednesday about an incident in which Liberato’s 15-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted at a gathering where Liberato was not present.
“The [assault] perpetrator was surrounded by other [Latin King members] at the gathering and he was beaten up,” said James J. Cipoletta, Liberato’s defense attorney.
Liberato discussed retaliation in phone calls intercepted by a court-authorized wiretap, but “no further harm came to the [assault] perpetrator,” Cipoletta said.
“The incident surrounding his daughter provoked a response that can be characterized as not uncommon among fathers who have learned that their daughter has been assaulted,” Cipoletta said. “The [phone] conversation was heated.”
Cipoletta and Fasoldt argued for release with conditions such as GPS location monitoring and curfews. Both defendants are married with multiple children and unlikely to flee the state or country, Cipoletta said.
“Membership by itself isn’t justification for detention,” Fasoldt argued.
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler has taken both matters under advisement but it is unclear when she will make a decision.