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

One of the few constants in the boys' lives was their gang. A Park South Crip -- not a defendant in the rape case -- wrote in a 1998 jailhouse note to a fellow banger:

"The hood will still be there for you [upon release from prison]. Just when we start comin' up this shit [the rape case] happens. Everybody we went to school with is here, y'all. . . . Crips 4-life. We have to sticc together."

(Crips like to substitute the letter "c" for "k," such as in "sticc" or "blacc.")

Top: Daniel Robinson, Middle: TaRon Auzenne, Bottom: Jermaine Johnson with his attorney, Signa Oliver
press pool photos
Top: Daniel Robinson, Middle: TaRon Auzenne, Bottom: Jermaine Johnson with his attorney, Signa Oliver
Onetime Chipman Road case prosecutor Laura Reckart: "I believed that girl, and I thought the lack of support she'd gotten was unconscionable."
Paolo Vescia
Onetime Chipman Road case prosecutor Laura Reckart: "I believed that girl, and I thought the lack of support she'd gotten was unconscionable."

Odds are they'll end up in prison or an early grave.

"It's about living for right now for a lot of young black men, because they think they may not be around for long," says Perry Mitchell, chief of Maricopa County's pretrial services bureau, who personally monitored several Chipman Road defendants. "A black man in this country has a great chance of becoming a dope fiend, of going to prison or winding up dead at the hands of another person of color."

It's no mystery to Mitchell and others who work inside the criminal-justice system that the Chipman Road 10 wound up in street gangs.

In some ways, things aren't much different now than they were in 1927, when a University of Michigan professor wrote:

"It is not only true that the habitat makes gangs. But what is of more importance, it is the habitat which determines whether or not their activities shall assume those perverse forms in which they become a menace to the community."

The "menace" in the Chipman Road case, according to Phoenix police detective Rusty Stuart, went beyond the indignities inflicted upon the unfortunate teenage girl:

"The Park South Crips committed this crime to keep the neighborhood in line, to keep people from calling the authorities or from testifying in other cases," Stuart testified at a pretrial hearing. "That gang believes it owns that neighborhood, and they own everybody in it. The victim was an individual who was owned by the gang -- a 'hood rat' -- a thing who would not have had the right to say no."

Stuart's viewpoint -- called rabid and racist by some defense attorneys and black leaders -- gained credence through pretrial interviews of defendant TaRon "TBone" Auzenne.

"How did you intimidate the neighborhood?" a lawyer asked the young man in 1998. "What's the word intimidation mean, do you even know?"

"Put fear in people's hearts," Auzenne replied.

For legal reasons, the jury never got to hear that comment, nor his statement that the gang rape had served as an initiation for some of the younger perpetrators into the Park South Crips.

Prosecutors earlier had cut a deal with Auzenne in exchange for his testimony against his fellow Crips. That deal collapsed in late 1998, when Auzenne changed his mind about snitching.

He went to trial, was convicted, and now is serving seven years in prison.

The Gang Cop

Some people believe Rusty Stuart personifies everything that's wrong with the Phoenix Police Department's gang squad.

"That guy looks at a black kid and automatically sees a criminal," says the Reverend Oscar Tillman, head of the NAACP's Arizona chapter. "A kid is black, he lives in, say, Park South, so he must be a bad apple, a gangbanger. Then he [the officer] starts his targeting."

Tillman complains that Stuart and two police colleagues in the Chipman Road case, detectives Cameron Scadden and Mark Calles, see things as black and white -- both racially and rigidly. Defense attorneys at trial accused those cops of "manipulating" the rape victim and her mother to claim rape instead of consent.

Stuart says he does try to help young gangbangers in whom he senses a ray of hope for a decent future. One such person, he says, was Chipman Road rape convict TaRon Auzenne.

"I thought he had a chance at one point," the detective says, "and I went to his mom, who is a good woman. I told her that TBone wasn't an evil kid, but that he might be heading toward prison or worse. Then came the rape. But T-Bone had to make up his mind whether he wanted to be a gangster or not. He wants to be a half-Crip, and you can't do that. It meant more to him to be a Crip than to be free."

Stuart is an 11-year police veteran who has spent his entire career in south Phoenix, first in uniform and now as a detective. He says one of his professional goals is, "when the little neighborhood kids look up to a banger, they'll see someone in prison stripes."

He contrasts Auzenne with co-defendant Carl "Mookie" Blackman -- whom prosecutors described as one of the gang rape's ringleaders. Unlike Auzenne, Stuart says, Blackman was doomed from the start:

"He had a crackhead mom who didn't want him and a grandmother who couldn't handle him. Mookie wasn't made by Mookie -- he was made by the kids in that neighborhood. What chance did he have to survive, or Darrion [Hartley] have to survive? These are American kids like anyone else, and we lost them."

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