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'Shoot on sight rivalry' at heart of gang trial with one defendant left

On the eve of his trial in a gang case rooted in allegations of murder and drug dealing, Dalvon Curry suddenly finds himself alone.

His two co-defendants, also accused gang members, took 11th-hour plea deals detailing the CBL/BFL's violence-fueled control over the Towne Gardens neighborhood just blocks from downtown.

In the end, Curry was left as the lone remaining defendant and the only one to go on trial. Twelve others have pleaded guilty.

Curry's arrest in August 2018, part of larger crackdown by the FBI and Buffalo police, was significant enough to warrant a news conference attended by U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. and Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Curry stood accused of killing two rival gang members and, from Day One, was the main target of a prosecution that focused on gang rivalries in the neighborhood near Jefferson Avenue and William Street.

"Curry and the CBL/BFL enterprise were engaged in a 'shoot on sight rivalry' with various rivals," prosecutors said in a recent pretrial document.

The gang, believed to have formed in 2009, used the neighborhood around Towne Gardens Plaza as its base of operations and relied on heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine sales to thrive.

The CBL/BFL, which stands for “Cash Been Long” and “Brothers For Life," also defended its turf against rival gangs and, to hear prosecutors talk, that is what led Curry to shoot and kill two rival gang members.

Larell Watkins, one of the two co-defendants who took plea deals this week, admitted he was the one who supplied the gun that killed one of those rivals. He did not name the "co-defendant" who pulled the trigger that night.

In his agreement with prosecutors, Watkins also admitted he was involved in three other shootings directed at rival gang members.

"It is important to note that this case involved a lot of boys from a depressed and often dangerous area of Buffalo," Robert Singer, Watkins' defense lawyer, said in a statement this week. "I say boys because many, like Larell, were children when they got exposed to life-threatening danger on a regular basis in Buffalo."

Singer noted that his client was shot twice by rival gang members and that his older brother Laron was killed.

Like Watkins, Maurice Rice, the other co-defendant who pleaded guilty this week, is facing a recommended sentence of 19 years in prison.

Rice, in his plea agreement, admits trying to kill three rival gang members in retaliation for other shootings. He also admits selling heroin and fentanyl, including the fentanyl that killed a Lackawanna man.

The plea deals mean Curry will stand trial alone.

At the crux of the case against him is the allegation that he shot and killed two rivals. The first was 19-year-old Jaquan Sullivan on the city's West Side in December 2015.

Curry is also charged in the murder of Xavier Wimes on New Year’s Day in 2017. Prosecutors say Wimes, beaten and being held against his will, escaped out of window but broke his leg in the fall.

They claim Curry eventually tracked him down and killed him.

[Related: Federal indictment details alleged gang feuding near Towne Gardens]

Curry's jury trial is likely to last about six weeks and at the core of the government's evidence will be rap music videos that prosecutors say were produced by members of the CBL/BFL gang and that document their drug dealing and use of violence.

The government is also expected to call gang members prepared to testify against Curry. However, it is not clear whether Watkins or Rice will testify; their plea agreements did not include a clause stating that they will cooperate with prosecutors.

Kevin W. Spitler, Curry's defense lawyer, has objected to the rap videos – he views them as unfairly prejudicial – but U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo has indicated he will probably allow them in as evidence.

Spitler also promised to discredit anyone who claims Curry was a gang member.

"I'm going to show those people had nothing to do with my client," he told Vilardo at one point.

The trial, postponed until next week, is expected to last six weeks. The government will be represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul C. Parisi and Seth T. Molisani.

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