Reputed ‘Bully Gang’ boss was pot dealer, but no gang member: lawyer

The leader of Brooklyn’s “Bully Gang,” who’s on trial for three murders, wasn’t running a gang at all but was simply trying to make ends meet as a pot dealer and a rap artist after several of his close friends were killed, his lawyer said.

Moeleek Harrell and his cousins and friends picked the name “Bully Gang” because they were bullied as young men growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and they wanted to reclaim the word, his lawyer, Darren Fields, told a jury in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday.

“He actually took that term and made it into a positive, similar to how some people use the N-word,” Fields said. He and his friends called themselves the “Little Bullies” at first, then the “Bully Gang,” because, as Fields explained, “Unfortunately in the rap industry, you have to promote. … The intent of the Bully Gang was to become rap artists.”

Harrell and three other men are on trial for racketeering, murder, and running two drug trafficking operations — one of them on Rikers Island.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joy Lurinsky described Harrell as the leader and founder of the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Bully Gang, and co-defendants Derrick Ayers, Franklin Gillespie and Anthony Kennedy as “core members.”

“Its members devastated communities up and down the East Coast. They murdered people. They hunted down and shot their enemies, and they poisoned the streets with dangerous drugs,” Lurinsky said. “For five years, the gang brought drugs from New York and New Jersey up to the state of Maine.”

Starting in 2019, while he was held on Rikers Island in an unrelated case, Harrell worked with other gang members and corrupt correction officers to smuggle the synthetic drug K2 into the jail complex, she said.

One of the murders took place in March 2018, after members of a rival gang tried to shoot up a gender reveal party for Harrell’s child. Ayers is accused of chasing down one of those rivals, Jonathan Jackson, as he fled down Kings Highway, and shooting him dead.

Gillespie committed two more murders in a four-day span in April 2020, Lurinsky said — first, the point-blank execution of rival Stukes Crew member Paul Hoilett, then, four days later, the getaway driver in the Hoilett murder, Mike Hawley, who Gillespie thought might talk if he was arrested.

The gang’s members used text messages to discuss the particulars of their drug operation, and to talk about stalking rivals, Lurinsky said, and they bragged on social media.

“In their posts they described the history of the gang, and the bragged about all their money from the crimes,” she said.

Harrell’s lawyer, Fields, said that Harrell was in jail from 2015 through 2017, and again from 2019 and 2020 when he was supposed to have been running the gang.

He described the Jackson murder as an act of self-defense, after the Stukes Crew members showed up at the gender reveal party, looking to “murder several people.”

“Fortunately, someone on the scene had a weapon to respond. It would have been a massacre,” Fields said. “The government claims that’s Derrick Ayers who did that. Well if he did, thank you.”

Police hounded him on trips back and forth between New York and Maine, pulling him over twice in a month and finding nothing during an exhaustive search, Fields said.

“The government will have you believe that Mr. Harrell was the leader of this Bully Gang organization,” he said. “What they did in this particular case is criminalize a neighborhood, criminalize relationships.”

The other defendants’ lawyers made similar arguments.

“A blood relationship is not an enterprise. Association with other people, with family members, is not an enterprise,” said Kennedy’s lawyer, Zachary Taylor. “A neighborhood is not an enterprise.”