A Newark man who belonged to a violent street gang was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for crimes including the murder of a woman caught in the crossfire of a shootout that erupted over a drug debt nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Khalil Stafford, 35, a member of the Grape Street Crips who also went by the street names "Stod" and "Homicide," had previously been found guilty of murder and drug-related racketeering charges.
He was among 66 gang members arrested in a May 2015 sweep and charged with a variety of drug-related offenses, including witness intimidation. Of that group, Stafford and 13 others were charged with murder in aid of racketeering as well as other offenses.
On June 19, 2010, Stafford confronted another person over a drug debt at the cookout on Garside Street in Newark. Stafford and other gang members left the cookout and returned armed, opening fire on the man. They fired more than a dozen shots, authorities said.
Hope Williams, 33, who was not involved in the dispute, was shot and killed, and two others were wounded, NJ.com reported.
Stafford had previously been acquitted of the killing by a jury in Essex County Superior Court. The U.S. Attorney's Office last year decided to bring federal charges against Stafford for the same incident, a tactic which did not violate Stafford's constitutional protection against double jeopardy because the federal charges were distinct from the state charges, the site also reported.
Stafford had been involved in the heroin trade for several years at James Baxter Terrace public housing complex until it was torn down in 2009. He also repeatedly sold the drug to DEA informants, receiving about $20,000 in total, authorities also said.
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