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Witness in gang leader’s federal trial testifies about notorious hit on Rudy ‘Kato’ Rangel

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 10/14/2021 Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune

Nearly two decades after the infamous murder of Latin Kings boss Rudy “Kato” Rangel, the West Side gang leader accused of carrying out the contract killing stood trial in connection with the slaying once again — this time at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

The first time prosecutors tried to hold reputed Four Corner Hustlers boss Labar “Bro Man” Spann accountable for Rangel’s murder, he was acquitted on all counts.

Much has changed since then, however. For one, Spann, 44, is now standing trial on federal racketeering charges, rather than a simple murder count in state court. The Rangel killing is just one piece of an extensive indictment that places him at the head of the Four Corner Hustlers, which prosecutors say controlled the West Side drug trade by robbing competitors, killing rivals and terrorizing the community.

Also different this time around: A man who was once Spann’s co-defendant testified against him.

Martise Nunnery took the stand Wednesday and told jurors he helped carry out Rangel’s slaying in June 2003 alongside Spann and the gunman, Donell “Squeaky” Simmons. It was essentially a contract killing, he said, and they were expecting a six-figure payout from the Conservative Vice Lords who had solicited the hit.

The three men rode together to the barbershop where Rangel was getting his hair cut, then Spann gave Simmons some instructions, Nunnery testified. Simmons got out of the car and cut through the alley, then nine or 10 gunshots rang out, he said.

Months after the shooting, the three men were charged in Cook County court with Rangel’s killing. And while they were together in the courthouse lockup awaiting their pretrial hearings, they made plans to try to lean on the witnesses so they wouldn’t testify, Nunnery said.

Nunnery was ultimately convicted in Rangel’s murder, and he testified Wednesday wearing a black-and-white striped prison uniform. Spann was acquitted, records show. Nunnery took credit for that on Wednesday, saying Spann was spared only because Nunnery didn’t take a deal in exchange for flipping on him.

But now, Nunnery is cooperating in hopes that he gets some time knocked off his 36-year sentence, he told jurors.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Matthew McQuaid hammered Nunnery for repeatedly lying in attempts to get out from under his case.

Nunnery admitted to lying on the stand at his own trial when he said police beat him into giving a statement about the Rangel murder; he also said that more recently, when he was trying to get his conviction thrown out, he persuaded two witnesses to write false affidavits for him.

“You’re willing to do what ever it takes within the system to obstruct justice and manipulate it?” McQuaid said.

“On trial, yes,” Nunnery replied. “In this case, I have nothing to lose.”

“So we’re the ones who are hearing the truthful Martise Nunnery for the first time?” McQuaid asked.

“Yes,” Nunnery said, then repeated: “I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Rangel’s slaying, which was the inspiration for rapper DMX’s hit “A ‘Yo Kato,” is by far the most high-profile act of violence the indictment ties to Spann.

In opening statements last month, jurors saw bloody crime scene images showing Rangel’s body sprawled in the corner of a trailer, next to an overturned barber chair.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kavitha Babu said Spann’s involvement with the gang stretched back to his teen years in the mid-1990s when he ran security for older gang members. After he was shot and left paralyzed in 1999, Spann took over the reins, using murder to “elevate his reputation in the gang as well as the gang’s reputation for ruthlessness,” Babu said.

In his opening remarks to jurors, McQuaid denied Spann was the part of any enterprise, saying the Four Corner Hustlers was really just a loose connection of factions where everyone was looking out for themselves, not some greater organization.

Nearly a dozen defendants were named in the original indictment. All but Spann have since pleaded guilty to various charges, with some agreeing to testify against their former boss.

The trial against Spann is expected to last through November. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of crimes related to the slayings.

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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