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The Diablo Boys, a violent Atlanta drug gang, infiltrated the federal clerk’s office, gaining access to confidential details of investigations, a prosecutor told a jury this week. For about 18 months, a data clerk working in the office of the Clerk of Court for the Northern District of Georgia leaked sealed information about ongoing wiretaps, vehicle traces, witnesses and suspected gang members under investigation by federal agents to Diablo gang leader Billy D. Ladson, Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette M. Sam-Buchanan said in her opening statement. That information allowed Ladson to identify potential witnesses against him and to avoid arrest for months by staying “one step ahead” of federal agents, she told the jury. Demetrius Freeman, the data entry clerk whom investigators eventually identified as the alleged source of the leaks, and Barry Adams, Freeman’s brother and a Ladson associate, are on trial this week in U.S. District Court. The two face charges that they conspired and obstructed justice during that investigation, according to a federal indictment. U.S. v. Freeman, No. 1:03CV329, (N.D. Feb. 2, 2003). Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr. is presiding over the trial. The trial goes to the heart of courthouse security. Confidential information — contained in documents that were sealed and stored in a safe with limited access — routinely found its way to Ladson for about 18 months, according to the indictment. On Monday, Luther D. Thomas, the clerk of court for the Northern District, several Assistant U.S. Attorneys and staff members for the district’s U.S. magistrates were in the courtroom to hear opening statements. LINKS TO GANG LEADER Attorneys for Freeman and Adams, a music producer who co-owned Diablo Records with Ladson, insisted that Ladson has been willing to lie to federal agents in order to avoid facing the death penalty for two drug-related slayings. The attorneys said Ladson has ruined the brothers’ lives. Law enforcement agents identified Freeman as the alleged source of the leaks only after Ladson was arrested and provided information implicating Adams and his brother. Sam-Buchanan acknowledged that Ladson, whom she identified as the leader of the Diablo Boys, is cooperating with the federal government’s prosecution of 16 alleged gang members. Ladson, along with suspected fellow gang members, was indicted in March 2003 on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking, carjacking, witness tampering, illegal use of a machine gun and manslaughter, according to a federal indictment. He has entered a guilty plea but has not yet been sentenced. Freeman’s attorney, P. Bruce Kirwan, said his client was an exemplary employee, not a gang informant. According to Kirwan, Freeman, now 28, was a bright student, an athlete and president of the student body of Harper Archer High School in northwest Atlanta before his 1993 graduation. Freeman’s brother is a music producer of a “mom-and-pop” record label, Diablo Records, said his attorney, Stephen B. Murrin. Through that label, Adams did business with Ladson, a talented singer for whom he produced several CDs, Murrin said. Adams’ business relationship with Ladson and friendships Freeman had forged at Harper Archer with suspected members of the Diablo Boys led Adams and Freeman to leak information to the gang, according to prosecutor Sam-Buchanan. Ladson told federal agents that he never paid for the information. LEAKS SUSPECTED Federal agents first suspected that information was being leaked to the Diablo Boys in May 2002 after a witness was carjacked at gunpoint, driven to an isolated location, forced to strip and ordered to run as suspected gang members fired multiple shots at him, Sam-Buchanan said. That witness survived only because he tripped and fell into a ditch that shielded him from much of the gunfire, she said. He later identified Ladson as one of his attackers, and federal authorities issued a sealed warrant for Ladson’s arrest, she said. According to the prosecutor, federal agents obtained a confidential court order allowing them to place a tracking device on a Lincoln Navigator they had identified as Ladson’s. But shortly after the order was signed, “Mr. Ladson stopped using the car,” she told the jury. Agents then attempted to locate Ladson by obtaining a court order to trace his cell phone calls, Sam-Buchanan said. Almost immediately, Ladson stopped using the phone, she said. Agents subsequently identified a second vehicle that Ladson had been spotted driving. When that vehicle was identified in confidential court records, Ladson stopped using it as well, the prosecutor said. Meanwhile, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had sought a federal warrant to search two apartments where investigators had seen suspected gang members engaged in what appeared to be drug sales. But when agents arrived at the apartments after securing the warrant, both were vacant. They appeared to have been abandoned in haste: cell phones and cash had been left behind, according to Sam-Buchanan. Federal agents also began getting calls from informants who said that names of witnesses and suspects identified only in sealed documents were circulating among the Diablo Boys. “It was quite clear that information was being leaked by someone in a position to know,” Sam-Buchanan told the jury. After federal authorities arrested Ladson and agreed not to seek the death penalty, he claimed he had been warned of the law enforcement initiatives against him by a person who “was responsible for entering documents into the computer system” at the federal courthouse, Sam-Buchanan said. Ladson identified the mole as “Barry Adams’ brother,” whom he said he knew only as “Bro,” according to Sam-Buchanan. Using high school yearbooks and a list of federal employees working at the Richard B. Russell Building downtown, federal agents pinpointed Freeman as the possible leak. Freeman’s job was to scan documents into federal computers. He also had access to the sealed documents containing information that found its way to Ladson, the prosecutor said.

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