HAMMOND | A jury was selected, opening statements by both sides presented, and a witness for the prosecution testified Wednesday in federal court on the first day of trial for alleged Imperial Gangsters member Richard Reyes.
Reyes, 41, of East Chicago, is accused of being involved in the murder of Rene Alonzo on Sept. 16, 2007. He has been charged with racketeering, conspiracy to deal cocaine and marijuana, murder in the aid of racketeering activity and murder resulting from the use of a firearm.
Twenty-four alleged members of the Imperial Gangsters were indicted as part of the sweeping federal investigation.
Federal prosecutors argued the testimony of former gang members will prove Reyes' involvement with the gang and place him as the man who shot Alonzo outside the U.S. Sports bar on Alder Street in East Chicago.
Prosecutors told the jury they also will try to establish that gang culture requires members never to cooperate with police and to settle disputes between rival gangs outside the law.
Jack Friedlander, Reyes' attorney, attacked the witnesses' credibility, saying their statements will not match the police records from the crimes and that they have incentives to lie about Reyes to receive reduced sentences.
"You must understand that they have a motive to lie, or have prejudice against Mr. Reyes," Friedlander said in his opening statement.
Friedlander also compared Reyes' involvement with the Imperial Gangsters to that of an alumnus of a university, saying prior involvement doesn't prove current involvement.
Jason Gore, special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was called as a witness to describe the operations of the Imperial Gangsters and the drug trade to the jury.
All but one defendant besides Reyes, Juan Briseno, has pleaded guilty. Briseno will be tried separately in April, and prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.
Reyes' trial will continue at 9 a.m. today.