FREE TOP 6
By: Guerby Joseph
Lake Worth, FL.
We see injustices happen within the judicial system everyday. Its broadcasted on the news, and unfortunately for some of us, we constantly see it in our own neighborhoods. Me, I live in the hood. Not in any incorporated cities or associated towns, but in the heart of Lake Worth, where controversy is like one of the residents. In these city streets, you're likely to see your everyday protesters petitioning about unions, budget cuts and city spending. As long as I could remember, and even to this present day, I’ve known Lake Worth as a city filled with low income immigrants, violence and drugs. Back in middle school, I could remember walking the hallways, and seeing my teacher lay lifeless on the floor, after being gun downed by a fellow student, but yet, the city continues to flourish. In just a few short years, this violent city has managed to get a new Publix, Wal-mart and a casino that will be up in running by 2013. So I ask myself , how does a city where a teacher was killed, recuperate from such a tarnished reputation? The answer is, make the public forget. Give them something new to talk about, and unfortunately for TOP 6, that something new was them.
The “groups” that are responsible for the TOP 6 takedown, besides the Attorney General Office & The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), is the City Commission of Lake Worth, Lantana P.D. & Boynton P.D . These three “groups” that are based in separate cities, geographically one after another, all have something to lose and have been facing some type of bad press. First, I begin with the city of Boynton Beach and its police department. The entire nation remembers the fatal mall shooting on December 24, 2006. This incident is bad for any city’s reputation. It deters people, and it is also bad for the city's financial well being. The Boynton Beach Police Department, also has a reputation for having crooked cops. Like in 2007, when a cop was arrested for DUI or in 2011, when a string of police officers were arrested for gun possession and drug trafficking This city has had a drug problem, shootings and more for as long as I could remember. Next, is the cities of Lake Worth and Lantana. Residents that live in either city would tell you the only difference between the two are their names. They are right next to each other and have the same issues with drugs and violence. Take Lake Worth for instance, made national news when a teacher was shot by a student in 2000. Incidents like this, followed by ongoing violence, like a backyard shooting that killed and injured multiple people, can hinder a city from growing financially. We all know Lake Worth’s money crisis is no secret. This embarrassing issue has been in local papers for years. That along with the pressures of its residents to do something about the string of violence over the years and a failing police department, can put a City Commission in a really tight spot.
The saying, “Drastic times calls for drastic measures” best explains the actions of the Lake Worth City Commission. On August of 2008, in response to the complaints of a failing Police Department, this city known for being “tight on money”, signs a Law Enforcement Services Agreement (LESA), with The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, to replace the Lake Worth PD. This legal agreement, consisted of expenses well beyond the city’s revenues. Keep in mind, a grand jury issued indictments for TOP 6 in December of 2007, and with the help of the PBSO, they took down TOP 6 in June of 2008; two months after the contract was signed. In my opinion, this close timing was no coincidence. If indictments were issued since 2007, and the LESA wasn’t signed, until after the TOP 6 takedown, then why was the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office involved in the takedown in the first place? Could it be that the city of Lake Worth used TOP 6 as a bargaining chip, to get the Law enforcement agency to go through with the contract? After all, all parties involved in this great operation, were paid handsomely.
These Law officials and Politicians claimed that TOP 6 was a million dollar drug organization and responsible for over 150 shootings. Indeed this was a phenomenal takedown and might I add, it couldn't have came at a much better time, since the city of Lake Worth was going through such a money crisis and violence problem; and don't forget about Boynton and Lantana having embarrassing issues as well. Solving that many crimes all at once, generates lots of money from the government and restores the residents faith back into the city and its City Commission. Just like I said before, “Make the public forget by giving them something new to talk about”, and I’m about to explain how, these “groups” of people executed that plan very well.
I keep stressing the power of music because it plays a big part in this. Music is exactly what TOP 6 is, and Top 6 represents today's definition of music in the urban culture. In fact, music is what put TOP 6 on the police radar in the first place. Music brings violence, and if you want to stop the violence you stop the music, and TOP 6 was a strong musical force in Palm Beach County. When the City Commission of Lake Worth started feeling the heat from the residents, about the ongoing violence in the city, they went to the hood, and saw first hand how much the urban community adored their hometown rap group. They were hot, up and coming and represented a way out the hood. You could youtube rappers like Tupac and Biggie Smalls, and see how, with the power of music, they influenced the nation’s entire urban community, to scream out East Side or West side. This was such a influential force, that it later cost both men their lives. So when not used right, a powerful force like music can cause turmoil to not just any community, but an entire nation; so who is at fault? Some would say the rappers, but is it fair to hold them accountable for the actions of others. In a interview during the midst of the east coast, west coast beef, rapper Tupac Shakur said, “The only way I’ve been living my life, practicing my life, is to be responsible for what I do. I don't know how to be responsible for what every black man did...but I am gon’ say I’m a thug, cause I came from the gutter and I’m still here!” This statement was made in response to the ongoing violence between the east and west coast, and at the media's attempts to try and hold Tupac accountable for it. Basically Pac is saying, he understands that he is a strong musical force in the urban community, but how one interprets and comprehends his music is not his fault.
Now Tupac wasn’t no saint and surely the members of TOP 6 were not either. Yes a few of them were involved in illegal activities but not of the magnitude that they are accused of. They come from the hood, where 1 out of every 3 minorities has a felony. These young Haitian Americans who didn't graduate nor go on to college, sought music as a way out ,a job, a career that didn’t break the law . So they don’t deserve to be charged with the RICO act. They deserved to be punished for the crimes they committed and not “cashed in” by a City Commission desperately trying to save its own skin.
Even if you don’t take any of these facts into consideration, surely common sense would help you realize just how outrageous the allegations against TOP 6 really are .They said this “gang” was a million dollar organization. How is this possible when no houses, cars, or any valuable assets were seized during the takedown. How is this possible when these young men still lived in the hood? To be the head of any million dollar organization, one would have to have some sort of a high level of education.. None of these young men went to college or had a high school diploma for that matter. Also, if these young men were charged with the RICO act, why not trial them in Federal court like every other violent drug lord? Why didn't the FBI pick up the case? These questions are yet to be answered because the indictments against TOP 6 are not true! There's no bank statements, receipts of large purchases or a trail of unexplained money. Vital evidence needed to take down any crime organization.
A lawyer representing a member of TOP 6, one day made a comment to me, that really disturbed me. It was a couple days before trial, and he was really troubled by his client’s decision of not wanting to take the prosecution's plea deal. He stated to me, that his client didn't understand that this is not about justice...if it was about justice, he wouldn’t have been charged in the first place.Through the anger in his voice, I could tell that these were obviously words of a man who saw the discrimination and discussed with the actions of the prosecutors. We also spoke about how his motion to use the TOP 6 documentary, made by the TV show GangLand, as evidence was denied. He said he built his case around it, and didn’t understand why such evidence that supposedly explained how evil this alleged gang was could be denied. In my book called “A Chance to Break”, I compared the documentary to the NAZI’s parpaganda methods, of trying to control the German public opinion, of the Jewish people. In fact, the actions of These “Groups” of people are similar to the NAZI, of course not to that extreme but very similar. Think about it. With the long arms of the judicial system, they label every Haitian American from Lake Worth as a gang member, pressure them to take plea deals so they can cash in, as we die in jail, the gas chambers. If you ask me , these groups of people are the real gang members where I’m from.
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