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Reputed gang leader back in court
0820GRAHAM rw
Charles Douglas Graham

A jury could decide today whether reputed gang leader and frequent law enforcement target Charles Douglas Graham is guilty of selling cocaine and the designer drug Ecstacy.

Graham, 22, who authorities say is the leader of Gainesville’s BOE street gang, has had his day in court before and won. In 2003, he was acquitted of murder charges in a gang-related drive-by shooting that killed two teenagers. Authorities believed Graham, who was 15 at the time, was the gunman in the 2002 shooting at a birthday party on Smallwood Drive. A co-defendant in the case got life in prison.

Since then, local authorities have tried other means to send Graham to prison. In 2004, he took a plea deal in a simple battery case and got a six-month sentence. In October 2006, a jury found him not guilty of cracking a window at the Hall County jail. The following year, Graham was jailed after a state court judge banned him from Hall County for 12 months on a criminal trespass charge.

If convicted in the latest case, Graham could get a sentence of five to 30 years for each of three felony counts alleging the sale of drugs.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor played black and white videos of Graham recorded last year by an informant wearing a tiny camera hidden in a button. The camera was provided by an FBI agent attached to the Gainesville-Hall County Gang Task Force.

In the videos, Graham is seen accepting cash.

The informant, who later was convicted in a series of drive-by shootings, brought drugs back to gang task force members after each transaction.

But testifying as a hostile witness for the prosecution Tuesday, 18-year-old informant Christopher Rivera Sanchez claimed that "it really didn’t happen the way it seemed."

Sanchez acknowledged to Hall County Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Burton that he gave Graham cash and was given drugs, but said the videos shown to jurors "reflect what happened at that moment, not beforehand or after."

Sanchez testified that the drugs were actually his, and that he told Graham where to get them in his house, then gave Graham the money to hold for fear of being robbed.

The witness told Graham’s attorney, public defender Craig Hickein, that he never saw Graham sell drugs.

Sanchez testified that he was approached by gang task force agents in 2007 after being charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Authorities offered to "help" him with the charge if he agreed to wear a hidden camera and try to buy drugs from Graham, he said.

"They told you they were interested in getting Mr. Graham?" Hickein asked.

"They kept calling me, bugging me," Sanchez said.

After making three recorded buys, Sanchez was paid $120 by law enforcement, according to court testimony.

Sanchez was later charged and convicted in a series of gang-related drive-by shootings in August 2007 that came close to injuring several innocent residents of the Silverwood and Lenox Park subdivisions. He is serving a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to aggravated assault, violation of the street gang terrorism act and other offenses.

Burton asked whether Sanchez’s affiliation with BOE made him reluctant to testify against the gang’s alleged leader in court for fear of retaliation in prison.

"If word got back that you testified against the leader of BOE, that would be a problem for you?" Burton asked.

"Yeah, but I ain’t testified against nobody," Sanchez replied.

The state expects to wrap up its case this morning. Depending on the case presented by the defense, the jury could begin deliberations later in the day.