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State v. Thornton

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

March 14, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
WILLIE THORNTON

         ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 15-1144, DIVISION "M" HONORABLE HENRY G. SULLIVAN, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Thomas J. Butler

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, WILLIE THORNTON Christopher A. Aberle

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE Jeffrey M. Landry Brooke A. Harris Colin Clark

          Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Marc E. Johnson, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore

          SUSAN M. CHEHARDY CHIEF JUDGE.

         On appeal, Willie Thornton, defendant herein, challenges his parole ineligibility under La. R.S. 40:969. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's underlying convictions and sentences, as well as defendant's multiple offender adjudication and enhanced sentence, and remand for correction of the commitments.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Because defendant pled guilty, the facts were not fully developed at a trial. However, during the guilty plea colloquy, the State provided the following factual basis for the guilty pleas:

Willie Thornton engaged in conduct to further the aims of an Enterprise by engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity and conspiring with members of the Enterprise to distribute controlled dangerous substances, including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. This conduct, which occurred between 2006 and 2015, included participating in the operation of a narcotics distribution network on the Westbank of Jefferson Parish wherein a violent street gang, named by its members the "Harvey Hustlers, " obtained controlled dangerous substances from associates and Enterprise members who transported the drugs into the metropolitan New Orleans area.
The ranking members of the Harvey Hustlers then directed the conversion of these drugs into a saleable form, such as converting powder cocaine to crack cocaine, and provided the drugs to rank and file Harvey Hustlers who sold the drug product on the street for the profit of Enterprise members.
Members of the Enterprise who engaged in this activity on a daily basis included all of those folks - all those individuals who are named in the Bill of Indictment.
Members of the Harvey Hustlers frequently identified themselves openly through items of jewelry and clothing containing a[n] "HH" logo, tattoos containing phrases identified with the gang, social media posts, and YouTube videos.
The Enterprise members and their associates engaged in acts of violence to protect the perceived interests of the Enterprise's members, exact revenge upon enemies of Enterprise members, punish Enterprise members whose conduct displeased Enterprise leaders and to develop a reputation of the Harvey Hustlers as a group to be feared by members of the community.
Mr. Thornton, among other acts, on December 12th, 2011, distributed cocaine to a confidential informant working with the FBI. Mr. Thornton also on November 18th, 2013, along with Robert Williams, Alcus Smith, and Brandon Motton possessed cocaine having intent to distribute that cocaine.

         On February 26, 2015, the Jefferson Parish grand jury indicted defendant and twenty other co-defendants on thirty criminal counts for various acts of racketeering committed in furtherance of a narcotics distribution network in Jefferson Parish operated by a street gang known as the "Harvey Hustlers." Specifically, defendant was charged with five counts: racketeering, in violation of La. R.S. 15:1352; conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in violation of La. R.S. 40:979 and La. R.S. 40:967(A); conspiracy to distribute heroin and marijuana, in violation of La. R.S. 40:979 and La. R.S. 40:966(A); distribution of cocaine, in violation of La. R.S. 40:967(A); and ...


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