Leonard, 24, of Asbury Park, one of two leaders of the violent criminal street gang known as the Bloods operating in the Asbury Park area, was sentenced by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Joseph W. Oxley. Leonard pleaded guilty in November to first degree Racketeering Conspiracy, second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose, and third degree Possession of Methylone (commonly known as “Molly”) with Intent to Distribute.
On the first degree Racketeering Conspiracy charge, Judge Oxley sentenced Leonard to 17 years in state prison, subject to the provisions of the “No Early Release Act” (NERA) requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for release on parole. He will also be under parole supervision for five years following his release from state prison. The sentence also included a concurrent 8-year sentence with a 4-year period of parole ineligibility on second degree Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose, and a concurrent 3-year sentence for the charge of third degree Possession of a Methylone (commonly known as “Molly”) with Intent to Distribute.
“We will continue to target the violent gang members who are terrorizing our neighborhoods. These gangs funnel deadly drugs such as heroin, crack cocaine and synthetic ecstasy into our communities, and put illegal weapons into the hands of criminals fixated on inflicting violence in the streets. They must and will be stopped,” Gramiccioni said.
The “Operation Dead End” investigation started in the summer of 2013 in conjunction with law enforcement efforts to stem violent street crimes and firearms offenses in Asbury Park. During the investigation, members of the criminal organization and their conspirators based their criminal activities out of two dead end streets in Asbury Park – Dewitt Avenue, and a section of Jersey Street in the Washington Village Public Housing Complex.
Dozens of defendants were convicted or pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to the successful operation. In addition to Leonard and Fair, Crips gang leader Haneef Walker was sentenced to 47 years imprisonment, and former Asbury Park police officer Keith German was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for tipping off these gang members and others about police activities, stalking and official misconduct. Dozens of other violent, gang-affiliated defendants were issued substantial jail sentences for their role and involvement in the criminal enterprise.
The lengthy investigation revealed that members of the criminal organization acted together on numerous occasions to commit a series of armed robberies, residential burglaries, and thefts, and included an organized shoplifting ring that had an established relationship with the owners of a local pawn shop. The investigation further exposed that members of the criminal organization regularly conspired to commit several different firearms-related offenses, including unlawfully possessing firearms, transferring guns between various members of the criminal organization, and targeting rival gang members and enemies for shootings. Members of the criminal organization supported their criminal activities by distributing narcotics including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and “molly,” a form of ecstasy.
The conspiracy included James Fair, 26, also of Asbury Park, who was convicted in September on 78 charges following a summer-long trial, including charges of first degree Conspiracy to Commit Murder, first degree Racketeering Conspiracy, second degree Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, first degree Robbery, weapons offenses, and drug offenses. Fair was sentenced to 82 years in a New Jersey state prison just days before Christmas last year.
In pleading guilty in November, Leonard admitted he conspired with Fair and several other members of the Bloods to conduct criminal activity for the benefit of the organization and to target rival street gang members for shootings. To that end, Fair and Leonard directed others within the criminal organization to notify them when their enemies were located and to then assist Fair and/or Leonard in attempting to shoot at their enemies. For their roles in directing and planning these crimes, as well as other crimes including robbery, burglary, and firearms possession, Fair and Leonard were both been sentenced for Racketeering Conspiracy.
“Operation Dead End” has resulted in the handing out of state prison sentences totaling 324 years for 17 defendants convicted of handgun offenses, 11 defendants convicted of drug distribution offenses, 10 defendants convicted of racketeering conspiracy, four defendants convicted of robbery/armed robbery, and three defendants convicted of attempted murder/conspiracy to commit murder.
The cases were prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Matthew Bogner and Joseph Cummings.
Leonard is represented by John Murphy, III, Esq., of Farmingdale.