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'Merchants of misery and death,' prosecutor says of street gang

On New Year's Day two years ago, as he lay on the ground unable to move because of a broken ankle, Xavier Wimes was shot 12 times.

Federal prosecutors say the man who killed Wimes was Dalvon Curry, a member of the CBL/BFL gang that controlled turf around Towne Gardens Plaza.

And it wasn't Curry's only murder, they claim.

He also is accused of killing 19-year-old Jaquan Sullivan as part of a gang feud two years earlier.

On Wednesday, Curry, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest last year, stood in a downtown courtroom and listened as the government painted him as a brutal murderer.

"The defendant and his fellow gang members were merchants of misery and death," Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth T. Molisani said in his opening statement. "He was a violent shooter and enforcer for the gang. He was a respected killer."

Curry's lawyer countered by reminding the jury about the presumption of innocence and the deals struck by those expected to testify against him.

From Day One, Curry was the main target of a federal investigation that focused on gang rivalries in the neighborhood near Jefferson Avenue and William Street.

Investigated by the FBI and Buffalo police, the CBL/BFL gang is believed to have formed 10 years ago and used the neighborhood around Towne Gardens Plaza as its base of operations.

Molisani said the gang's moniker stands for "Cash Been Long," or "City of Brotherly Love," and Brothers For Life" or "Be Forever Loyal."

The gang relied on heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine and marijuana sales to thrive, and prosecutors said it was rivalries with other gangs that led to Curry's killings.

In the case of Wimes, a fellow CBL/BFL gang member, it was Curry's trashing of his dead cousin, a rival gang member, on social media that gave rise to their confrontation at a New Year's Eve party.

After Wimes struck Curry in the head, Curry retaliated by shooting him several times.

"He unloaded round after round after round," Molisani told the jury. "Xavier Wimes was executed in cold blood by members of his own gang."

The government also took the jury through a series of gang shootings in 2015 that led to another social media confrontation, this one between Curry and Sullivan.

In the end, Molisani said, the two gang rivals crossed paths on Parkdale Avenue on the city's West Side and exchanged gunfire. He said Curry would later admit to fellow gang members that he killed Sullivan.

"This defendant told them, Sullivan wasn't fast enough on the draw," he told the jury.

Curry, the only CBL/BFL member to stand trial, is expected to argue that he knew some of the people involved in wrongdoing but wasn't part of their criminal activity.

"This case is about an attack on the presumption of innocence," said defense lawyer Kevin W. Spitler. "These were a bunch of guys who were just knocking around."

Spitler said the government's case relies on the testimony of witnesses who agreed to cooperate with the government in return for leniency in their own sentencing.

"They said what they said to make a deal," he told the jury.

Expected to last about seven weeks, Curry's jury trial will include rap music videos that prosecutors say were produced by members of the CBL/BFL gang and that help prove their drug dealing and use of violence.

Spitler has objected to the videos – he views them as unfairly prejudicial – but U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo has indicated he will allow them in as evidence.

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

Earlier this month, on the eve of Curry's first scheduled trial, his two co-defendants took plea deals that left him as the sole defendant on trial.

Larell Watkins, one of the two co-defendants who pleaded guilty, admitted he was the one who supplied the gun that killed Wimes. He did not name the "co-defendant" who pulled the trigger that night.

Maurice Rice, the other co-defendant who pleaded guilty, admitted trying to kill three rival gang members in retaliation for other shootings, as well as selling heroin and fentanyl, including the fentanyl that killed a Lackawanna man.

During the trial, the government also will be represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul C. Parisi and Christopher O. Taylor.

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

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