Saying Charles Douglas Graham’s criminal acts "can’t be tolerated," a judge sentenced the admitted gang leader to 20 years in prison Wednesday.
Hall County Chief Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller also banished Graham from the county for 40 years, the length of Graham’s probation after he is released from prison for selling cocaine and Ecstasy.
Fuller told Graham, who previously was banished and caught in Gainesville, that he would need written permission from his probation officer to be in Hall County at any time.
"I think you get the point, correct?" Fuller said. "Although you have not gotten the point to this point."
Authorities say Graham, 22, was a founding member of the street gang B.O.E.-23, which stands for "Busting On Everyone." He was acquitted by a Hall County jury in 2003 of killing two teenagers in a drive-by shooting outside a birthday party.
That case wasn’t mentioned in Wednesday’s sentencing hearing or last month’s one-week trial, when a jury found Graham guilty of three felony charges. It was his first felony conviction.
Gainesville police Sgt. Joe Amerling testified Wednesday that Graham has admitted to being the leader of B.O.E.-23, which Amerling described as a criminal enterprise involved in crimes ranging from damage to property and burglary to drug sales, aggravated assaults and homicides.
Fuller followed Hall County Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Burton’s recommended sentence of 20 years in prison, plus a lengthy term of probation.
"I think this is appropriate given the evidence of his consistent criminal activity," Burton said. "I feel like the members of the community deserve a time when this defendant will no longer encourage gang activity."
The judge said the testimony about Graham’s gang affiliations was "relevant for consideration in this case."
"Just as damaging to you ... is the people that surrounded you during those drug sales," Fuller said. "You were surrounded by kids."
Fuller said Graham "continued his criminal enterprise in front of impressionable young people ... which is certainly something that just can’t be tolerated by this court, and won’t be."
Earlier in the hearing, Hall County Public Defender Brad Morris entered into evidence court records for a defendant not connected to Graham’s case who was convicted of two counts of sale of cocaine and was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver to eight years, with two years to serve in prison and the remainder on probation. Morris asked that Fuller’s sentence be proportionate to the facts of the case and how similar cases have been handled. The attorney suggested a sentence of 10 years, with four to serve in prison and the remainder on probation.
Fuller, who was the presiding judge in Graham’s murder trial, actually exceeded the prosecution’s recommendation by fining Graham $5,000 instead of the suggested fine of $3,000 and tacking on an additional 10 years of probation to the state’s recommendation of 30 years. He also imposed a number of gang-related conditions of probation, which ranged from no contact with gang members to not owning weapons or spray paint.
Graham was 15 when he was charged in the fatal shootings of teens Juan Zuniga and Mario Cavazco, who were shot on Smallwood Road in June 2002. He was acquitted at trial the following year. A co-defendant in the case, Angel Mario Deleon, got two consecutive life sentences. Prosecutors alleged that Graham was the gunman in the shootings, which also seriously wounded two teenage girls when 13 shots from an SKS rifle were fired into a crowd.
Since his acquittal, Graham has faced lesser charges of battery, criminal trespass, obstruction and interference with government property. In December 2006, a state court judge banished Graham from Hall County for the length of his 12-month probated sentence on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.
In June and July of 2007, a paid informant secretly recorded three drug deals with Graham using a video camera concealed in a button. The drug investigation was led by the Gainesville-Hall Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad and Gang Task Force, with assistance from an FBI agent assigned to the units.
Graham’s defense attorney unsuccessfully sought to keep evidence of his gang affiliations out of the most recent trial. Graham was not charged with gang-related crimes.
Authorities say B.O.E.-23 has been less active in the past year. Several members of the gang were sentenced to lengthy prison terms by Fuller last year after pleading guilty to a series of drive-by shootings in the Lenox Park and Silverwood subdivisions. No one was injured when the gang’s members fired shotgun blasts into homes where they thought rival gang members lived. The occupants, who narrowly escaped injury, had no gang connections.
Graham was not implicated in those shootings.