Monday, 05 December 2016 10:28

Body Shop Employee Held in Contempt for Refusing to Testify Against Gang

Written by Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune

A former auto body shop employee was found in criminal contempt of court and sentenced to 60 days in custody on November 29 by a federal judge for refusing to testify at the trial of six reputed leaders of the violent Hobos street gang.

Mack Mason was subpoenaed to testify November 28 but refused to take the stand out of concern for his family's welfare. On November 29, U.S. District Judge John Tharp gave him another chance. But Mason, already serving a 12-month sentence for a cocaine conviction, again declined, saying his family still lived in the area that the Hobos operated in and he had "nothing to say in this case."


"I don't think his concerns for the welfare of himself and his family are fanciful," Tharp said. But the judge said Mason's testimony could impact the safety of the public at large and other "families in the community" and that he was required to testify when lawfully summoned to do so.


"While I understand the context that Mr. Mason finds himself in and appreciate the difficult decision that he has made, he has nonetheless made a decision that I believe constitutes a contempt of court," Tharp said.


Prosecutors have alleged the gang was responsible for at least nine murders, including the killing of two informants who had been cooperating with law enforcement.


Mason was expected to testify that he worked at Logan Brothers Auto Body Shop at 66th and State streets and that several members of the Hobos often brought in their cars for repair. In 2013, alleged Hobos assassin Paris Poe came into the shop looking for a "snitch" named Keith Daniels, who was believed to be cooperating with the FBI in an investigation into the gang's reputed leader, Gregory "Bowlegs" Chester, according to testimony that Mason had previously given to a grand jury.


Mason alleged that Poe lifted up his shirt, exposing the butt of a handgun, and said he had "something" for Daniels, according to prosecutors.


Poe was accused of cutting off an electronic monitoring device and lying in ambush for Daniels outside his family's Dolton apartment in April 2013. When Daniels pulled into the driveway, Poe shot Daniels in front of his fiancee and two young children, according to trial testimony.


Mason was one of several witnesses who have been subpoenaed to testify against their will during the nearly three-month trial, but he's the first to be found in contempt. Other witnesses have taken the stand after the judge explained to them that the government was not seeking to prosecute them for any alleged crimes associated with their testimony, meaning they could not assert their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.


Even when some witnesses have reluctantly taken the stand, they have been hazy in their recall for jurors. Testifying in October, former NBA player Bobby Simmons failed to recall details of his previous claims he was robbed at gunpoint of a necklace worth more than $100,000 outside the Ice Bar in River North in 2006.

It was only after Simmons was confronted with his own grand jury testimony that the Chicago native and former DePaul University star acknowledged Poe had snatched the diamond-studded necklace from his neck, then fired at least 14 shots at his truck after Simmons gave chase across the South Side.


Simmons' grand jury statement was read into the record for the jury — a move prosecutors are expected to make with Mason as well.


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