Thursday, September 30, 2004

Tot Lot member sentenced


Police say violent West End gang controlled drug deals

By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

The reputed leader of the Tot Lot Posse street gang described himself in federal court Wednesday as a family man who coached youth basketball and worked with children in Cincinnati's West End.

But the judge was more interested in Antwynne Beavers' work as a drug dealer.

"Do you think what you've been doing sets a good example for kids?" asked U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel.

"No, sir," Beavers replied. "I knew what I was doing was wrong."

Spiegel sentenced Beavers to 12 years in prison and scolded him for repeatedly choosing to live like a criminal instead of a productive citizen.

The sentence is the first involving a member of the Tot Lot Posse, but seven other accused gang members have been charged with participating in the same conspiracy to sell drugs throughout the community.

The charges are the result of an investigation that lasted more than a year and involved Cincinnati police, the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Evidence gathered during the investigation includes secretly recorded telephone conversations, surveillance and statements from confidential informants.

Authorities have said Beavers, 30, was the leader of the Tot Lot Posse, which takes its name from a children's play area in the West End. Police and federal investigators have linked the gang to drug trafficking, intimidation and violence.

In court, though, Beavers denied he committed violent acts and his lawyer, Kenneth Lawson, said his client's criminal record was mostly minor drug possession charges. He said Beavers turned to crime because he grew up on the street.

"He was not a malicious person, not a violent person," Lawson said. "This is all he knew, all he's seen on the street. If you play with dirt long enough, you're going to get dirty."

Spiegel said Beavers had several opportunities to change. He cited at least nine prior arrests for misdemeanor drug charges, driving violations and domestic violence.

"Your client's been on the wrong side of the law most of his life," Spiegel told Lawson. "He should have learned."

E-mail dhorn@enquirer.com




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