Six leaders and managers of Black Souls street gang convicted of RICO and and drug conspiracies involving multiple murders

December 2, 2017

Six defendants are facing up to life imprisonment after a Cook County jury found them guilty of racketeering conspiracy and drug conspiracy following a ten-week trial.

Cornell Dawson,  the leader of the Black Souls, a violent street gang operating on the west side of Chicago, was convicted along with Teron Odum, Antwan Davis, Ulysses Polk, Clifton Lemon, and Duavon Spears, who were managers and enforcers for the Black Souls. Fourteen other members of the Black Souls pled guilty to racketeering and drug charges prior to trial.

Evidence at trial showed that for at least 15 years, the Black Souls controlled heroin and cocaine sales in the areas near Monroe St. and Pulaski Rd. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago and protected their territory through numerous acts of murder, kidnapping, beatings and witness intimidation. Evidence at trial showed that members of the Black Souls committed at least four murders to protect their drug operation and as retaliation for shootings by rival gangs.

In addition to finding the defendants guilty of the racketeering and drug conspiracies, the jury returned special findings regarding four murders committed in furtherance of the racketeering conspiracy. The jury found that the following defendants’ racketeering activity included these murders or that the deaths were reasonably foreseeable to them:

  • January 9, 2013 murder of Johnny Taylor: Dawson, Odum, Davis, Polk, Lemon, Spears
  • October 20, 2012 murder of Claude Snulligan: Dawson, Odum, Davis, Polk, Lemon, Spears
  • July 21, 2003 murder of Ernest Keys: Dawson, Odum
  • June 24, 2002 murder of Charles Watson: Dawson, Odum, Polk, Lemon

Among the murders proven at trial was the October 20, 2012 execution-style murder of Claude Snulligan. The evidence showed that Odum was arrested and charged with aggravated battery after beating Snulligan for calling the police to complain about the Black Souls selling drugs in front of his house. While Odum was in custody, Snulligan refused to accept a bribe from Dawson and Davis in exchange for not cooperating with law enforcement in the case against Odum. The evidence at trial showed that two months after Snulligan refused the bribe, Spears shot Snulligan in the back of the head in broad daylight in the neighborhood controlled by the Black Souls as other members of the Black Souls stood nearby.

“The jury’s verdicts hold the defendants accountable for the violent enterprise known as the Black Souls and for their roles in murders, attempted murders, shootings, kidnappings, beatings and drug trafficking,” said Kimberly M. Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney. “These verdicts are the culmination of years of work by the Chicago Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and State’s Attorney’s Office, and I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment to ending the Black Souls’ chokehold on a Chicago neighborhood,” continued Foxx. Foxx added, “My office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to bring additional prosecutions like this one that strategically target violent offenders preying on communities already ravaged by violent crime and drugs.”

This case was the first to be tried in Cook County under the Illinois RICO law passed in 2012. Earlier this year, at the urging of the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Illinois legislature extended the RICO law for another five-year term.

The State’s Attorney’s Office works to uphold public safety through the fair and efficient administration of justice.  Follow @SAKimFoxx and @CookCountySAO on Twitter and Facebook for breaking news updates.