ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to a man identified as the statewide leader in Georgia of the “Rollin’ 20s” street gang, a division of the “Bloods,” which is a criminal gang founded in Los Angeles.
Rocquel Quinton Chavers was convicted in Crisp County of malice murder, violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, and gun possession charges for the 2014 shooting death of Jasperin Armstrong.
Armstrong was found dead on September 12, 2014 on Ferry Landing Road in Crisp County. Authorities determined that he died from a gunshot wound.
The murder stemmed from a fight that had broken out earlier that summer at a basketball game between members of the Rollin’ 20s and a rival gang. During the game, Armstrong’s cousin, Jacquese Hicks, who was in the other gang, elbowed one of the Rollin’ 20s gang members. But instead of joining the fight with his fellow gang members, Armstrong tried to break it up.
Soon messages appeared on Facebook criticizing Armstrong’s refusal to fight and warning that Chavers would impose consequences. In a later conversation on speaker phone, Chavers told a fellow gang member that they had to stick together, that Armstrong “went out bad,” and “somebody’s got to die.” At a meeting of gang members a few days before Armstrong was killed, the girlfriend of one of the members heard them say that Armstrong refused to fight and somebody was “on the plate” and “going to get ate.” At trial, a gang expert testified that someone who is “on the plate” or “going to get ate” is someone who has been targeted to be beaten or killed.
In his appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, Chavers argued that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of violating the Street Gang Act, that the trial court erred by allowing certain testimony, and that his trial attorney rendered “ineffective assistance of counsel” in violation of his constitutional rights.
But in Tuesday’s unanimous opinion, “We disagree and affirm” Chavers’s convictions, Justice Sarah H. Warren wrote for a unanimous Court.
When police later searched Armstrong’s bedroom, they found printed gang rules, and his girlfriend verified that he was a member of the “Rollin’ 20s” gang. The investigators also recovered messages from the gang’s Facebook group that included a number of his co-defendants, including Rontavious Towns, who as leader of the gang in Cordele, was at a lower rank than Chavers, the gang’s state leader.