(STL.News) – John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that Michael Belle, also known as “MB,” 21, of New Haven, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 87 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in a violent street gang.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in 2016, the New Haven Police Department’s Shooting Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) began investigating numerous unsolved shootings that had occurred in New Haven and Hamden. Ballistic examination of recovered cartridge cases determined that three firearms were used in 18 shootings committed in or around New Haven in 2016. The investigation revealed that the firearms were possessed by members and associates of the Goodrich Street Boys (“GSB”), a New Haven street gang, and that GSB members also were involved in a number of other shootings in 2016, many of them retaliatory against rival gang members.
On August 3, 2017, a grand jury in New Haven returned a 13-count indictment charging Belle and five other GSB members with racketeering, attempted murder, firearm and narcotics trafficking offenses. The indictment alleged that, between September 2015 and May 2016, GSB members and associates were involved in six gang-related shootings that caused injuries to five individuals.
Belle previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity and admitted that he and other GSB members conspired to kill an individual who they believed had been disrespectful to a GSB member. On May 27, 2016, GSB members ambushed the individual and his friend as the pair were walking on a busy street in New Haven. The individual, who survived the attack, identified GSB member Milton Westley as an assailant. Westley, also known as “Reese,” shot the victim in the stomach. After the victim collapsed to the ground, Westley stood over him and shot him in the head. Another GSB member shot the second victim in the hand as he attempted to shield his face.
The victim who was shot in the stomach and head continues to recover from his injuries. He was in coma for several weeks and had to learn to walk and talk again.
This victim had been shot at by GSB members twice prior to May 27, 2016, including once by Belle in January 2016.
Belle was also present at the attempted murder of a rival gang member on January 23, 2016. On that date, a GSB member recorded cell phone video of nine shots being fired at the rival gang member’s house.
GSB members also shot at rival gang members on February 6, 2016, in a densely populated residential area; March 13, 2016, during a heavily attended St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown New Haven; and June 21, 2016, during which an innocent bystander was shot in the stomach through her bedroom window.
GSB members also used social media to post pictures and videos of themselves with firearms, and used social media to threaten rivals, including individuals who might cooperate with law enforcement.
The investigation further revealed that Belle and other GSB members were involved in the acquisition and distribution of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
Belle has been detained since his arrest on August 9, 2017.
Westley and the four other defendants pleaded guilty to various charges. Westley awaits sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Durham noted that federal law prohibits any retaliation against a federal witness. If persons retaliate against a federal witness “because of attendance at or testimony in a criminal case, the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed for the offense under this section shall be the higher of that otherwise provided by law or the maximum term that could have been imposed for any offense charged in that case.” Because the maximum term charged in the case was life imprisonment, anyone who tampers with a federal witness in this case faces life imprisonment.
U.S. Attorney Durham further noted that this prosecution is a part of the Justice’s Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program and Project Longevity. PSN is a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Longevity is a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun violence in Connecticut’s major cities. Through Project Longevity, community members and law enforcement directly engage with members of groups that are prone to commit violence and deliver a community message against violence, a law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence and an offer of help for those who want it.
This investigation is being conducted by ATF and the New Haven Police Department. The FBI, Hamden Police Department and New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office have provided critical assistance in the investigation.
An instrumental component of this investigation has been the work of the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory in utilizing the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to analyze ballistics evidence.
This matter is being prosecuted in the District of Connecticut by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter D. Markle, Rahul Kale and Jocelyn Courtney Kaoutzanis.