Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Racketeering Case Sent to a Rare Double Jury; Two Jacksonville Men Accused of Being Part of 'Guardians' Gang

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Racketeering Case Sent to a Rare Double Jury; Two Jacksonville Men Accused of Being Part of 'Guardians' Gang

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler

A rarely used double jury will begin deliberations Tuesday in the federal racketeering trial of two Jacksonville men accused of being part of a gang that terrorized sleeping homeowners, robbed banks, sold drugs and beat people.

Closing arguments in the trial of Maynard Kenneth Godwin, 32, and Eric Steven Ellis, 27, ended Monday afternoon and were followed by 90 minutes of complex jury instructions.

Godwin and Ellis both face life in prison if convicted of being involved in a gang known as the Guardians. Prosecutors said Godwin led the gang and wore dog tags with the title "The Boss," while Ellis was an associate.

The double jury - 12 jurors and four alternates on each - was required to preserve the defendants' rights to confront each other since they had incriminating evidence against one another. Prosecutors said the double jury was the first in the 35-county federal Middle District of Florida. Double juries have been used in state court in the local circuit.

The juries heard closing arguments separately, returned together to get instructions from District Judge Marcia Howard, then separated to choose foremen.

When the trial began four weeks ago, prosecutors said the gang was named after Godwin and others were watching the cable-based "Sons of Anarchy," a show about an outlaw California motorcycle gang. Defense attorneys argued there was no such influence and that no gang existed.

Testimony included still-terrified victims of the robberies and one man who was nearly beaten to death. Several gang members who have already pleaded guilty also testified, as did the defendants.

Prosecutor Jay Taylor did not mention the television show during his closing arguments. Taylor said neither the gang name nor how it was created mattered.

He said the key was that Godwin and Ellis were involved in a criminal enterprise that shared in the proceeds of multiple criminal acts that benefited the group. …

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