A jury convicted a Cartersville gang leader of federal charges connected to a nightclub shooting and the subsequent murder of a 17-year-old witness.

They found Maurice Antonio Kent guilty of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (or RICO) Conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, discharging a firearm during the commission of those violent crimes, and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.

According to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The 135 Pirus gang originated in Compton, California, and has a national presence, including in the Northern District of Georgia. Kent was a gang leader in northwest Georgia with leadership authority over members in the vicinity of Cartersville and Rome. The 135 Pirus operate by a set of rules, which, among other commands, prohibit its members from cooperating with law enforcement.

In the early morning hours of May 13, 2017, an argument occurred outside a Brookhaven nightclub between a California-based 135 Pirus gang member and a rival gang member. At that time, Kent fired multiple rounds into a crowd of people outside the club, critically wounding the other gang member and a club security guard. During his flight from the scene, Kent tossed the firearm from a vehicle just before police apprehended him. Soon after being arrested and in custody, Kent learned that a 17-year-old fellow gang member, who may have witnessed the shooting, was interviewed by law enforcement. Kent believed he was “snitching.” Two days later, 135 Pirus gang members devised a plan to lure the teenager to Bartow County, where they shot and killed him with Kent’s gun, leaving the boy’s body on a rural road.

The jury also heard evidence that eight months before the nightclub shooting, in September 2016, Kent committed a drive-by shooting of a man standing in his front yard in Cartersville. After that shooting, Kent threw the firearm into Lake Allatoona. The FBI later recovered the gun from the bottom of the lake and matched cartridge casings and a bullet from the drive-by shooting to Kent’s firearm.

In addition to 32-year-old Maurice Antonio Kent, a.k.a., “Savage Duze,” of Cartersville, juries convicted five other 135 Pirus gang members and associates in this case, including:

29-year-old Cedric Sams, Jr., a.k.a. “Awall,” a 135 Pirus member from Cartersville for murder in aid of racketeering and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in death; and

30-year-old Jennifer Foutz, a.k.a. “Rose,” a 135 Pirus member from Acworth, for murder in aid of racketeering and using a firearm to further a crime of violence resulting in death.

In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders. The sentencing hearing for Kent and the other defendants will be another day.

This case is being investigated by the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force, with valuable assistance provided by entities including the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and the Cartersville Police Department.