"East Side Posse" gang leader sentenced to 27 years in prison

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Michael Angelo Hayes, also known as "Little Mike" and "Mikey", one of the leaders of a downtown Charleston criminal street gang known as "ESP" or the "East Side Posse", was sentenced in federal court to serve over 27 years in a federal penitentiary, authorities say.

Hayes, along with fifteen other defendants, had been named in a 45-count indictment. Other defendants in the case who have been sentenced include Calvin Dixon (264 months), Kevin Coaxum (96 months), Tony Brown (94 months), Laquell Dixon (90 months), Shabazz Wise (84 months), Montrell Wise (84), Charles Fabers (70 months), and Kenneth Brown (60).

Assistant United States Attorney Kittrell said that Hayes was one of three individuals running a violent, loosely organized group of criminal associates and drug dealers who engaged in violence and the sale of drugs in Charleston in the neighborhood known as "Eastside" which is on the east side of Meeting Street. The ESP territory was in the heart of that neighborhood. Drug markets operated at different locations and at least one location operated as a notorious open air drug market.

The federal prosecutors, Assistant United States Attorney Kittrell and Special Assistant United States Attorney Linder, noted in various court proceedings that gang members sold well over a kilogram of heroin and multiple kilograms of "crack" cocaine, using various residences and stores as distribution outlets on the East Side of Charleston.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Kittrell and Special Assistant United States Attorney Linder, the drug dealers from ESP were a significant source of supply for heroin and crack for the metropolitan area and Hayes was well known in the criminal world as a leader of the group. "Mr. Hayes was someone whom others feared and during the course of the investigation intimidated witnesses. For instance, after being brought into federal court for his arraignment, Mr. Hayes rushed the rail between the well of the courtroom and the public seating, threatening someone whom he believed was cooperating. The Deputy United States Marshals present in the courtroom had to grab Mr. Hayes, take control of him and put him in a holding cell. Another witness against Mr. Hayes retracted information after that witness's mother received anonymous calls, although that same witness later recanted his retraction."

The federal prosecutor noted that the defendant was a career criminal, a recidivist offender with an extensive record. Federal prosecutors noted in court documents that Mr. Hayes had eighteen convictions on his record, including five felonies. He had been arrested for thirty-four offenses on twenty-three occasions. He had been arrested fifteen times for drug offenses (nine of these arrests were for felonies) to wit: possession with intent to distribute or distribution of crack, cocaine and marijuana) and had four convictions for drug offenses, one of which was a felony.

He was arrested for ten acts of violence (including two separate arrests for murder, strong arm robbery, assault on police officer while resisting arrest, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, simple assault and battery and simple assault). He had five convictions for violent acts, three of which were felonies: strong arm robbery, assault on a police officer while resisting arrest, assault while resisting arrest. On eight of the occasions when he was arrested, he was on bond or parole.

His record of convictions and arrests began when he was fourteen, in 1996. Therefore, from an early age to the date of his arrest on this federal indictment he had a lifelong record of encounters with the law.

Federal prosecutors also noted that Mr. Hayes was a leader of a criminal street gang which caused considerable disruption to the Charleston community.

Mr. Hayes grew up with a number of the other defendants in the same neighborhood and began selling drugs together in the Johnson Street area in the late 90's. He later began selling in the Eastside neighborhood and set up a residence which was used as a distribution outlet until a police raid on May 29, 2009. When police raided the house, they found a Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic handgun which had been used as a house gun to protect drug dealing activities, along with about one hundred and seventy-two grams of crack, one hundred fifty-eight grams of marijuana; a grinder (for marijuana packaging and distribution); several scales; a GE Turntable microwave oven and Pyrex cups, all with cocaine residue (for cooking crack).

As a result of that search, Mr. Hayes moved the operation a couple of streets over until August 11, 2009, when a search warrant raid was conducted. Michael Hayes was outside the abandoned residence. Inside, officers recovered a Norinco SKS 7.62 x 39 caliber assault rifle, a Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a Hi-Point .380 caliber handgun, eighty three wax paper "bindles" of heroin, four hundred and sixty grams of marijuana, and a scale.

After that raid, Mr. Hayes moved his operation to another nearby street. He and others sold heroin from there, and used a "community garden" to store weapons and drugs. He sold "dime" bags of heroin to undercover operatives or directed sales to them between October 22, 2009 and April 1, 2010.

Hayes and another co-defendant, Calvin Dixon (who received a sentence of 264 months in federal prison from Judge Duffy), along with Arnold Bellinger (who received a sentence of 202 months in federal prison from Judge Duffy), led the street gang and together went to Atlanta to purchase kilos of cocaine and significant weights of heroin. Assistant United States Attorney Sean Kittrell noted during court proceedings that the heroin was sold on the street in $10 bags, which was a unique trade mark and marketing tool for the group. The idea to sell the heroin in this manner was Hayes'. Thus, ESP marketed heroin "like Madison Avenue." Heroin is usually sold in Charleston in small wax paper wrapped packets called bindles at $20 for each. When ESP began selling these at the lower price of $10 a bindle, it became to law enforcement a signature for ESP street dealers.

United States Attorney Nettles praised the ad hoc task force of federal and state prosecutors, working with federal and local law enforcement agencies. He noted that the outcome was the result of teamwork and "intelligence led prosecution, which means that we work together to identify and attack a particular pattern of crime in a specific area rather than reacting to events as they occur. This has a greater community impact because we share resources and information, and decisions are made together. I commend the Ninth Circuit Solicitor's Office, the City of Charleston Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives." Mr. Nettles also praised Assistant Solicitor Stephanie Linder of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, who was designated by the United States Department of Justice as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that that "In going after gangs, it is essential to investigate, prosecute, convict, and imprison the leaders and their associates in order to have a lasting impact. Multi-defendant violence, especially gang activity, is a continuing problem. Michael Hayes, Calvin Dixon and Arnold Bellinger were all leaders and members of ESP, which was a violent street gang and it is significant that these three got a combined total 66 years in the federal pen. It was great to see my current office was able to work so closely with my former office, where I was an Assistant United States Attorney."

Chief Greg Mullen of the City of Charleston Police Department also offered praise for the successful completion of the case. "It is very important in our efforts to combat criminal street gangs operating in our community to go after the leaders of these groups. Michael Hayes is well known throughout the criminal underworld. This is a significant sentence and we know it will have a deterrent effect. We have already seen the difference this case is making in the community. "

Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Atlanta Field Division commented "We are pleased with the result of our combined efforts and the fact that our teamwork led to the imprisonment of these defendants of a violent gang, who were responsible for the distribution of a substantial weight of heroin and other drugs. It is important to go after the leadership of these groups in order to have a community impact"

"ATF will continue to dedicate its resources in the fight against armed violent crime," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Wayne L. Dixie, "ATF along with our law enforcement partners will continue to work together in our efforts to lower the rate of violent crime in affected communities."

Mr. Nettles said that Assistant United States Attorney Sean Kittrell and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Linder of the Charleston office were the federal prosecutors responsible for the investigation and prosecution of the case.