CHICAGO - The reputed chief of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang took the witness stand Tuesday after federal prosecutors rested their case in his lengthy racketeering trial, signaling a potential early end to a trial that has already lasted more than a month.
Labar "Bro Man" Spann talked to jurors about his life from early childhood to a youth spent amid the city’s street gangs, leading all the way up to the June 1, 1999, shooting that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
Then Spann went on to deny allegations against him. They included claims related to the June 2003 slaying of Latin Kings boss Rudy "Kato" Rangel, one of six murders the feds tied Spann to in a 2017 indictment.
The purported West Side gang chief spent hours Tuesday answering questions from defense attorney Matthew McQuaid. But the real danger will begin when Spann is cross examined by prosecutors who spent five weeks laying out the evidence against him.
It’s a risk most defendants who go to trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse choose not to take.
Prosecutors earlier predicted Spann’s trial would last until mid-November.
Recordings played earlier in the trial feature a fast-talking Spann who is often difficult to understand. So Spann agreed with his lawyer to try to slow down during his testimony. But McQuaid still found himself asking Spann to back up and explain his answers.
Labar "Bro Man" Spann is accused of participating in all six slayings, including the June 2003 murder of Latin Kings gangster Rudy "Kato" Rangel, whose death inspired the track "A ‘Yo Kato" by rapper DMX. | 2010 mug shot
Throughout his testimony, Spann told the jury "I ain’t no dummy," that, "You know a police when you see a police, plain and simple," and "I don’t play police games, period." He said he was caught on recordings talking about potential crimes only because he knew the person recording him was wearing a wire — and he wanted to "expose" the informant.
"I’m telling you, I had somebody following them," Spann added, insisting the informant would then have meetings with police at a Wendy’s or even a Hooters.
Before the shooting that left him paralyzed in June 1999, Spann said he’d begun a scam where he’d set up a drug deal, cut up a newspaper, pretend the newspaper was money and then steal the real cash.
He shared that detail as he spoke about a childhood in which his father was locked up, his mother was a "booster" who sold stolen clothing, and his acquaintances were often either being killed or locked up.
Spann said he spent about a year on the run from the police, living in Ohio and Indiana before returning to Chicago around the end of 1996. He then wound up going to prison, walking free on March 16, 1998.
He said he joined the Four Corner Hustlers around the age of 13 and later ran errands for the gang as a "shorty." After he survived his first shooting, he said he decided to carry a gun wherever he went.
Later, he said he began working security for the gang, which his attorney said was involved in a "dangerous game."
"Right," Spann said, "And I got a gun."