Jury selection begins in trial of alleged Chicago gang leaders

Jury selection has begun at the trial of six alleged leaders of a once powerful Chicago street gang, ‘The Hobos.’

- Jury selection has begun at the trial of six alleged leaders of a once powerful Chicago street gang, ‘The Hobos.’

On Tuesday, security was tight at the Dirksen Federal Building.

“The racketeering charge outlines a gang that would literally commit any violent crime up to and including murder to protect its turf and its operations and to punish and intimidate its enemies and to make money 9/5/13,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro.

That's how prosecutors described the Hobos street gang when charges were announced three years ago. They'll be describing the Hobos again this week for a jury.

Dozens of potential jurors filled out questionnaires Tuesday, and those who are selected will remain anonymous for their protection.

One of the alleged Hobo leaders, Paris Poe, is charged with shooting and killing two police informants. He fled the state while under investigation for one of those killings, leading to a manhunt outside Madison, Wisconsin, and his eventual arrest.

Like other Hobos, Poe--nickamed Polerowski--displays tattoos saying, "the Earth is our Turf."

In court filings, prosecutors call them "ruthless..a new breed of street gang comprised of  members from diverse gangs that were once rivals."

They allegedly ran drugs, including heroin, and killed to protect their turf, which included neighborhoods near 47th and Vincennes, and 51st and Martin Luther King Drive.

Prosecutors say their profits from dealing drugs paid for trips to  Hawaii and Florida, but it's their nine alleged murders which will get the most attention during the three month trial.

U.S. marshals had recommended that the six defendants wear leg shackles when appearing in the 14th floor Dirksen building courtroom. Judge John Tharp, though, decided that the shackles might prejudice the jury. He said they won't be used, unless they're necessary.

The trial is expected to last about three months. If a jury is selected Wednesday, opening statements would take place on Thursday.

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