NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Three brothers pleaded guilty Wednesday to a variety of federal drug, weapon and conspiracy charges encompassing years of bloody New Orleans gang activity, including a shooting spree that left 20 people injured at a neighborhood parade on Mother's Day 2013 — one of a handful of brazen acts of public violence that have set the tourism-dependent city on edge in recent years.
Shawn Scott, 26, Stanley Scott, 23, and Akein Scott, 22, face from 20 years to life in prison, according to U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, who accepted their guilty pleas.
"I don't know whether or not I will give you the minimum sentence, something in between or the maximum," Lemelle cautioned the three before accepting their pleas. Sentencing was set for Jan. 6.
All three pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy count in the indictment and to identical weapon and drug conspiracy charges. Akein and Shawn Scott also pleaded guilty to a count specifically dealing with the Mother's Day parade shooting.
Nobody was killed in the May 2013 shootings, caught in part on a fuzzy security video that shows a man firing toward the parade as a crowd scatters. But 19 people, including two children, were struck by bullets and another person was injured in the resulting rush to get away from the gunfire that interrupted the traditional neighborhood "second-line" parade in New Orleans' 7th Ward.
Police named Shawn Scott and Akein Scott as suspects soon after the shooting. They were arrested within days. State charges eventually were dropped in favor of the federal prosecution. The indictment listed the Scotts as drug distributors and "gunmen" for the gang and said they carried out various acts of violence against rival gang members. It lists 20 purported targets in the Mother's Day shooting, identifying them by their initials.
There were once nine defendants in the federal case. Wednesday's guilty pleas were the latest in a series that now leaves Travis Scott, the oldest of the Scott brothers at 29, as the sole defendant facing trial. Defense attorneys are expected to present evidence in hopes of earning their clients less than the maximum life sentences. Attorneys said Wednesday's plea deals are not contingent on the three cooperating with prosecutors.
The Mother's Day shooting drew unwanted attention to the city's stubborn violent crime problem. Tourists are rarely victims and the shooting took place in a neighborhood off the beaten path for most tourists. But the neighborhood parades sometimes draw visitors interested in the city's unique parade culture and some were among the wounded. Earlier in 2013, four people were wounded in a shooting on Bourbon Street on the Saturday before Mardi Gras. In 2014, a late-night gunfight that broke out on Bourbon Street days ahead of the Independence Day weekend killed one person, a visitor from the south Louisiana city of Hammond, and injured nine.
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