Alleged gang member goes free
By Melanie Ruberti
Alleged criminal mastermind and gang member Roger Lee Ransom II, 35, walked out of the Troup County Jail early Thursday afternoon a free man.
Ransom was on trial for reportedly instructing fellow gang members to shoot and kill an acquaintance outside the man’s home in the 900 block of Georgia Avenue on Jan. 2, 2016.
That order was carried out two days later on Jan. 4, 2016 by Frederick Evan Beasley, 37.
Beasley admitted in a Troup County Superior courtroom on Monday that he was the gunman.
The crime was part of a “hit” by members of the Gangster Disciples street gang.
Beasley admitted in open court he is a member of the Gangster Disciples – and so was Ransom.
The 37-year-old man testified it was Ransom’s idea to kill the victim. He reportedly also provided Beasley with a firearm to carry out the crime.
The victim was shot once in the arm – and survived the attack.
Beasley’s truthful testimony on Monday was part of a negotiated plea deal with the Troup County District Attorney’s office.
He was expected to take the stand and testify against Ransom Thursday morning.
But Beasley suddenly recanted his guilty confession to prosecutors late Wednesday night.
“Whether it was motivated by fear or something else, Mr. Beasley indicated to the State that his testimony was not truthful,” Assistant District Attorney Brett Adams told the court on Thursday. “As the State, we have a duty and an obligation to seek justice and not simply prosecute people and obtain guilty verdicts.”
As a result of Beasley’s recanted statements, the District Attorney’s office dropped the most serious charges against Ransom: one count of aggravated assault and two counts of violating the street gang terrorism and prevention act.
“Despite the other evidence in this case that shows the defendant’s (Ransom) guilt, the state does not believe it should proceed in a case like this when the co-defendant is changing his testimony,” Adams stated.
Ransom pleaded guilty to the remaining charge: possession of firearm by a convicted felon.
The defendant tendered an “Alford plea” – meaning Ransom entered a guilty plea but still maintained he was innocent of the charges filed against him.
Ransom also submitted a non-negotiated plea and left his fate in the hands of presiding Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison.
The state recommended Sakrison sentence Ransom five years to serve behind bars. It was the maximum sentence the judge could hand down on the remaining charge against Ransom.
Adams reminded the court two witnesses testified on Wednesday they heard the defendant threaten to kill the victim while they were all inside Title Max.
The witnesses, both former Title Max employees, told the jury the threats were made two days before the shooting occurred.
A third co-defendant in the case, Darkeveon Darrell Tucker, 19, also took the stand on Wednesday.
The teen admitted he saw a black car carrying Ransom and Beasley, circle the victim’s home three times on Jan. 4.
Ransom allegedly winked at Tucker the second time the car drove around – but he was not in the vehicle during the third pass, the teen said.
“What did that mean to you?” Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne asked Tucker.
“That something was about to go down … the shooting,” he replied.
“You heard the seriousness surrounding the facts in this case,” Adams told Sakrison on Thursday morning. “We (State) initially offered Mr. Ransom a plea deal … the defendant rejected that, and to this day shows no remorse or responsibility for his role in the crime by pleading an Alford plea.”
The Assistant District Attorney also revealed Ransom is a convicted felon and repeat offender.
According to court documents obtained by the Daily News, Ransom was convicted of forgery in Muscogee County in June 2012, deposit account fraud in Jan. 2006 and failure to appear in Troup County Superior Court in March 2005.
The documents showed the defendant was also charged and convicted of battery and false imprisonment in 2004.
The sentences handed down for each case against Ransom was not known as of press time on Thursday.
His lawyer, Barry Debrow, argued his client already served 14 months in the Troup County Jail while waiting for the case to go to trial.
Debrow told Sakrison Ransom deserved to be set free.
“Mr. Ransom gave up substantial rights … in allowing this case to go before a jury,” the attorney stated. “He knows the concerns the community has about gangs … and when someone is charged with those charges (gang), it weighs on the minds of many…
“We think that has been a learning lesson for Mr. Ransom … certainly about the process of going through the justice system …,” Debrow added.
Adams disagreed with the defense attorney’s request. The prosecutor cited concerns for the shooting victim and those that testified against Ransom in court.
But Sakrison sided with the defense and sentenced Ransom to 5 years to serve 14 months – with credit for time served. The rest of the sentence was probated.
The judge explained his decision in open court.
“It seems like you (State) would rather have him (Ransom) on probation so you can monitor him and he doesn’t contact the victim and fall back into gangs,” Sakrison told Adams. “In the interest of protecting the community, we would be better off in monitoring him (Ransom) on probation that parole. Do you agree with that?”
Sakrison alluded to the court that if he placed Ransom on probation, he could set special provisions within the sentence – which included ordering the defendant to stay away from the victim, witnesses and gang members.
If Ransom is arrested for violating those conditions – he could face more jail time.
“Some of the evidence we heard was concerning gang activity so it’s in the best interest of the community that you not associate with gangs moving forward,” the Judge told Ransom after sentencing.
Sakrison declined any comment on the case or Ransom’s sentence.
“Sometimes the guilty guy goes free,” Adams said. “… But I’d much rather do the ethical thing, than just win a case.”
“We feel like, as prosecutors, when we are confronted with someone who is waffling on their story, we don’t want to use that as the basis of any evidence in a case …,” added Senior Assistant District Attorney Monique Kirby.
Ransom faced 55 years behind bars if he was convicted on the four counts against him.
Instead, Ransom walked out of the Troup County Jail at 12:39 p.m. Thursday afternoon – less than 90 minutes after he was sentenced.
It was a tough blow for the state, but Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said he was proud of how his office handled the case.
“I applaud the investigators of the LaGrange Police Department and my prosecutors who worked diligently on the case even during the trial,” he stated on Thursday. “I’m proud of my staff who aligned their duties to seek justice and not just convictions … When Mr. Beasley told them last night (Wednesday) he was lying, they brought it to the attention of the court.
“When you have these gang related cases and gang members are testifying, we don’t know what their underlying motive is (to testify),” Skandalakis continued. “It’s our duty in the District Attorney’s office to put up (on the stand) credible witnesses … They (prosecutors) did the right thing and I am proud of them.”
Beasley’s negotiated plea with the State was conditional on his testimony during Ransom’s trial.
The District Attorney’s office recommended Beasley, also a convicted felon, be sentenced to 30 years behind bars to serve 10 years as a recidivist.
The State asked Judge Sakrison on Monday to withhold Beasley’s sentencing until after the state presents its case against Ransom.
Now, all deals may be off.
The District Attorney’s office said they would have to re-evaluate and discuss how to proceed forward with Beasley’s case.
No decision was made as of Thursday afternoon.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with the LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.
Roger Ransom Trial – Day 1
The trial against an alleged high ranking member of the Gangster Disciples criminal street gang began early Wednesday morning inside a Troup County Superior Courtroom.
Roger Lee Ransom II is accused of instructing fellow gang members to shoot and kill an acquaintance outside the man’s home in the 900 block of Georgia Avenue on Jan. 4, 2016.
Ransom is charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of violating the street gang terrorism and prevention act.
The hit was carried out – but the victim survived.
Two LaGrange police officers were the first to arrive on scene and testified they found the victim with a single gunshot wound to the arm. The man was bleeding profusely.
“He was on the verge of bleeding out and probably dying when we got to him,” LPD Officer and K9 Handler Wendy Bryant told the court.
LPD Detective Brian Brown walked jurors through a sketch of the crime scene that day.
Brown pointed out trails of blood and items left by the victim. The sketch showed the man staggered to three different homes before finally collapsing in a neighbor’s front yard.
The victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital. The man is not expected to testify in the trial, according to the Troup County District Attorney’s Office and Ransom’s defense attorney Barry Debrow, Jr.
Two former employees of the Title Max store in LaGrange took the stand for the state.
Though their testimony varied slightly, both women told the jury they saw Ransom and the victim inside the store two days before the shooting took place.
The employees both stated the two men were arguing loudly – and both testified they remembered Ransom telling people he was going to kill the victim.
“… He (Ransom) went outside to the van … he came back inside (Title Max) and was still arguing and he said, ‘I’m going to kill him,’” Connie Dockery told Assistant District Attorney Brett Adams.
“… I tried to diffuse the situation and walked out with Ransom,” Patricia Gettings testified. “He got on his phone as I was doing an inspection of the van … I got in the driver’s seat and he (Ransom) got in the front (passenger) seat and I noticed a gun on his side … he (Ransom) was really upset and said he needed help killing him,” Gettings continued referencing a picture of the victim displayed on the courtroom wall.
Brown told the court he processed the crime scene on Georgia Avenue and found a .40 caliber shell casing and a spent bullet on the front porch of the victim’s home.
Ransom’s defense attorney spent little time questioning Brown about the shooting. Instead, he asked the detective about his interrogation methods with co-defendant Darkeveon Darrell Tucker.
Tucker was 17 years old at the time of the shooting.
Debrow insinuated Brown coerced a false confession from the teen on Jan. 6, after Tucker reportedly failed a polygraph test.
“… So you used some of those techniques you learned in training on him (Tucker) … as in being understanding towards him and leaning in close to him, didn’t you,” Debrow asked the detective. “You even told him he had a lot on shoulders because he wasn’t being truthful.”
“I told him (Tucker) he had a lot on his shoulders based on his body language and things he said during the polygraph,” Brown countered. “It seemed like he was being deceitful.”
The teen changed his story several times during the interrogation with Brown – and in subsequent interviews with other LPD detectives.
Tucker was getting his hair cut by the victim on the front porch of his home right before the shooting occurred, Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne told the jury in his opening statement.
The now 19-year-old man was the last person to testify on Wednesday.
The teen told the court he saw a black car carrying Ransom and co-defendant, Frederick Evan Beasley, circle the victim’s home three times on Jan. 4.
Ransom allegedly winked at Tucker the second time the car drove around – and was not in the vehicle during the third pass, the teen said.
“What did that mean to you,” Winne asked Tucker.
“That something was about to go down … the shooting,” he replied.
Tucker testified he jumped into the black sedan with Beasley and saw a gun in his lap. The man allegedly told the teen he was about to shoot the victim.
When asked why he lied to investigators so many times, Tucker stated he was “afraid” of Ransom.
“I didn’t want to tell them (LPD detectives) the truth…. I was scared,” he told the court. “Ransom has a name in the streets and I didn’t want to be a snitch … I didn’t want to get shot, too.”
Tucker explained Ransom and Beasley are allegedly high ranking members of the Gangster Disciples criminal street gang.
Ransom’s reported “title” is known as D.O.E. – which stands for “Death of Entertainment.”
“When someone did something bad, they could get shot. He (Ransom) wasn’t above the whole city, but he called a lot of shots,” Tucker said.
But Debrow shot down the teen’s alleged knowledge of the gang – and his testimony that both Ransom and Beasley were part of the Gangster Disciples. This – after Tucker admitted he did not know the details of being a “member” of the alleged criminal organization.
The defense attorney also picked apart Tucker’s interviews with detectives. The teen admitted he lied several times to LPD investigators before he was arrested for the crime on Jan. 9, 2016.
Tucker was the last witness for the day.
The other co-defendant in the case, Frederick Evan Beasley, is expected to take the stand and testify against Ransom on Thursday.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.