KNIGHTDALE — Police charged a 19-year-old man with kidnapping and assaulting a teen this month, and the alleged motive for the attack brought a special charge under a seldom used state law.
Eddie Lee Anderson was charged with one felony count of “threat to punish gang withdrawal,” one of a series of crimes established by the N.C. Street Gang Suppression Act, introduced in 2007 by Durham legislator Henry M. Michaux and voted into law one year later.
The law metes out extra serious penalties for crimes related to gangs, such as being involved in patterns of gang activity, soliciting and encouraging others to join gangs, using gang activity to acquire property and using threats to deter someone from leaving a gang.
Michaux introduced the bill at a time when Durham had seen a spike in homicides. In 2009, a newly formed Governor’s Gang Task Force identified 898 gangs in North Carolina with 13,699 members and associates in 52 counties.
But for all the attention gangs got from state legislators when the bill passed, the law has resulted in relatively few charges and even fewer convictions. From 2009 through 2012, police across the state filed 216 charges under the law, resulting in 26 convictions, state records show.
Of the 33 charges filed under the law last year, only one ended in a conviction – for soliciting gang activity, records show.
James Spuit, gang reduction manager with the Criminal Justice Resource Center in Durham, said the law has good intentions, but part of the challenge for police and prosecutors is proving that someone belongs to a gang as defined by the General Assembly. A gang must have three or more members, a name or symbol, and be engaged in criminal activity.
“It has to have all of the characteristics before it can be considered a bona fide gang,” Spuit said.
The gang charges are used, Spuit said, to win guilty pleas for other crimes.
“If a person has a lot of different charges, then the (gang) charge can be used as a bargaining chip,” he said. “If someone cops to the other charges, then this (gang) charge can be dropped later on.”
Police have accused Anderson of enlisting the services of a 15-year-old boy to help him kidnap a 14-year-old and take him to a home under construction on Sunday Silence Drive on May 20. Police say Anderson and the 15-year-old punched and kicked the younger boy in the head and back, according to arrest warrants.
The 15-year-old told police that the assault was punishment for leaving the “Money Merc Shooters,” a homegrown outfit that police say does not appear to be part of a larger established gang.
Anderson, who lives on Winning Colors Road, has also been charged with one misdemeanor count each of breaking and entering, simple assault and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, according to arrest warrants filed Sunday at the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.
He is in the Wake County jail under $55,000 bail.
News researcher David Raynor contributed to this report. McDonald: 919-829-4533