The Gang's All Fear

The Crips who raped a retarded girl sprang from a 'hood where too many kids aspire to the thug life

The case also exposed the schism between Phoenix's white and black cultures: Many black Park South residents have little or no faith that police are there to serve and protect them.

They consider police misconduct against black citizens to be the rule, not aberrations. One incident that comes up constantly in interviews is the 1994 choking death by Phoenix police of black double-amputee Edward Mallet during a routine traffic stop that had escalated into violence. A Maricopa County civil jury awarded Mallet's parents $45 million, then blasted the police in an unusual post-trial statement. The Mallets later settled with the City of Phoenix for $5.3 million.

Right or wrong, neighborhood kids become inured with this deep mistrust of authority. No wonder that Chipman Road defendants such as Donald "Insane" Love III -- a onetime usher at the Ebenezer Baptist Church -- became a Park South Crip before he was old enough to shave.

Veronica Young -- the mother of convicted rapist Daniel Robinson -- spoke with Phoenix gang detective Rusty Stuart in court last week.
Paolo Vescia
Veronica Young -- the mother of convicted rapist Daniel Robinson -- spoke with Phoenix gang detective Rusty Stuart in court last week.
Five Chipman Road defendants and their attorneys sat through weeks of testimony in the gang-rape case.
press pool photo
Five Chipman Road defendants and their attorneys sat through weeks of testimony in the gang-rape case.

"I see the detectives," he wrote in a 1997 jailhouse rap lyric, "they tell me some bullshit. I take the 5th. I ain't no punk. So fucc that shit. Then I go to court. It's on the news and shit. She [the judge] says, '160 G's.' Ain't that a bitch."

He wrote in another rap that year, "Me and my rida's in the hood we control. Every mothafuccen night we hood patrol."

Love's lyrics chronicle gang-related bloodshed on the streets of south Phoenix, casting the Park South Crips -- including some Chipman Road defendants -- as heroic gunslingers.

Perhaps he was just being creative in the manner of, say, Tennessee Ernie Ford, who once crooned, "If you see me comin', better step aside. A lotta men didn't. A lotta men died."

There's little doubt, based on police reports that predate the Chipman Road rape, that Donald Love embraced thug life as a youth. However, Love -- who's now on probation -- never lost touch with his "other" family.

"Donald is my roll [sic] model," one of his young cousins wrote to Judge Martin in 1998, "the person I look up to. I miss Donald very much. Since he been locked up, my life has changed. I have no one to keep me on the right track and keep me out of trouble."

A role model?

Love himself "just never had any real guidance from anybody," says his attorney, assistant public defender Brad Bransky. "There's no way you can condone what they did [during the Chipman Road rape], but you can see how they get where they are. The gangs are where these guys get their main support, for better or worse."

Love did get some guidance from an uncle in a March 1997 phone call taped by jail authorities.

"I'm hoping that after this thing is all over, man," Lewis White told his nephew, "that you take a shot at [stopping] taking stupid pills and turn in your membership to Thugs-R-Us."

"Uh-huh," Love replied.

Most of the Chipman Road defendants were reared by their mothers or grandparents, and have had little meaningful contact with their fathers.

Dennis "LuLay" Watson Jr.'s presentence report says he was raised mostly by his grandparents, including a maternal grandfather who is a pastor of a south Phoenix church. Watson's birth parents had little to do with him, the report says, and he joined the Park South Crips at a tender age. "In spite of this abandonment [by his parents]," it concludes, "the defendant feels his childhood has been normal."

It was, at least from where Watson sits.

Darrion "Knoccout" Hartley was a 14-year-old school dropout at the time of the rape. Growing up, he rarely saw his father; his mother -- who long has battled a crack cocaine addiction -- has been more of a peer than an authority figure.

An indicator of the mother-son relationship came during a taped jailhouse phone call in 1997.

"Mama, I been in here four months," Hartley told her. "I know where I can pick up some tight rock [crack cocaine]."

"Oh yeah," his mother replied.

"Put it like this. I'll go over in their hood. Pull a little somethin' out. A 30-cal or a little 12-gauge . . ."

"Yeah."

(Hartley was proposing an armed robbery of rival gangsters in another part of town.)

Remarkably, Hartley had no criminal record before the Chipman Road case.

Other defendants, such as Carl "Mookie" Blackman, pretty much raised themselves. Blackman's drug-addled mother abandoned him, and his overwhelmed grandmother couldn't handle him, which left the youngster to his own destructive devices before he hit his teens.

Mookie Blackman was 13 years old when police first questioned him in the Chipman Road rape case.

(Blackman's mother spoke tearfully to Judge Martin at her son's sentencing: "He was only 13. Please! I can help him! Don't take my baby away from me!" The judge -- and Blackman himself -- seemed unmoved.)

"If you look at his record," prosecutor Joe Heileman told Martin, "you have to understand that Carl Blackman is beyond our help now. He is a person who will hurt someone else the minute he gets out of prison. . . . We shouldn't be swayed by the fact of the [defendants'] chronological age. The truth of the matter is they will be this way forever."

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