Monday, February 26, 2024
Monday, February 26, 2024

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Khalil Coleman: A Milwaukee Protest Leader’s Chicago Gangland Ties


Tiffany Henry, Milwaukee office director for Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, arrives at the interview first. Wearing a black mask emblazoned with the word “vote,” she says that Khalil Coleman, one of the area’s most prominent anti-police protest leaders, will soon meet us. Her face drips with slight but unmistakable disdain. She hovers throughout the interview, a caffeinated personality with large statement glasses, sometimes blocking questions, even standing to signal when the interview should stop. People need to “understand and know who the leadership is,” Henry says. A cameraman is in tow.

Coleman, called Milwaukee’s key organizer of the largest Black Lives Matter protest marches by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, gives off a different vibe. When he arrives at Milwaukee’s ornate City Hall, his eyes flash with determination and intelligence. He appears eager to be understood. He’s not a fan of politics, and he says he’s not affiliated with the national BLM organization. Coleman is a leader in the “People’s Revolution” group that has been shutting down Mayfair Mall for months, in protests that have sometimes spun into violence and disorder. Coleman, 34, seems driven by the cause. He’s a somewhat diminutive man in a Milwaukee Brewers jacket with coiled energy. You can watch his full, raw and unedited interview here:

We first reached out to Coleman after learning that he openly expresses affinity for the “GDs” on social media. He insists he’s not involved in crime. To him, “GD” (or G&D) stands for “Growth and Development.” To federal authorities, it stands for “Gangster Disciples.”

Federal prosecutors say the Gangster Disciples, then and now, are one of the most monolithic, violent, and organized criminal street gangs this country has ever seen. A professor told us the GDs, which originated in Chicago, have ties to the Italian Mafia. Gangster Disciples created mayhem on Milwaukee’s north side in the 1990s when homicide was at its apex (around the time Coleman was born). We’ve found indictments of GDs throughout the country, including charges in 2020, one of a “regional boss.” They span from Georgia to Wisconsin. In 2016, a sweeping indictment charged 48 alleged Gangster Disciples in Georgia.

Authorities alleged the “gang protected its power and operation through threats, intimidation, and violence, including murder…It also promoted the Gangster Disciples enterprise through member-only activities, including conference calls, birthday celebrations of the gang’s founder, the annual Gangster Ball, award ceremonies.” Money came through “drug trafficking, robbery, carjacking, extortion, wire fraud,” the feds claimed. In 2017, in Milwaukee, authorities accused 11 Gangster Disciples of being responsible for violence, heroin and cocaine sales.

Due to Coleman’s stature in the protest community and with Milwaukee’s political leadership – he even appeared at a press conference with then Fire and Police Commission Chairman Steve DeVougas a couple hours before Milwaukee’s police chief was demoted – we felt that his G&D alliances were newsworthy. It was Coleman who told the media that the press conference was over and thanked them for coming.

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Khalil coleman wearing a blue bos (brothers of the struggle) t-shirt with larry hoover’s face in the outline of wisconsin.

His G&D ties have gotten no ink in Milwaukee’s media. The Journal Sentinel story exulted Coleman as the Phil Jackson to BLM leader Frank Nitty’s Michael Jordan, referring to the Chicago Bulls’ storied basketball dynasty. Coleman is “the key organizer of the largest local daily demonstrations that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Coleman directs medics, security and traffic control and makes sure a certain order holds,” the JS wrote. Coleman is sometimes overshadowed by the flashier Nitty. Don’t underestimate his influence.

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Khalil coleman gesturing to a person he knows at city hall. Credit: jim piwowarczyk

“Khalil Coleman started the movement and it goes unnoticed because he moves silent,” a woman gushed recently on Coleman’s wall. Another man wrote, “I need to be in Wisconsin with my G Khalil Coleman fighting a worthy cause…definitely a soldier at heart.” G means “gangster.”

Coleman is extremely open on Facebook about this. He uses the organization’s lingo (“PML,” “Folks,” “NTML”, etc.) routinely (he says the former means plenty much love), wears the organization’s six-pointed star, meets with its co-founders and OGs (original gangsters), wears its colors, and expresses admiration for its charismatic, legendary leader Larry Hoover, a convicted murderer who ran the GDs from a state prison cell and is now in federal supermax with El Chapo and the Unabomber. In one photo, Coleman’s shirt has Hoover’s face captured inside the Wisconsin state outline. His Facebook profile in July was Hoover’s picture inside a circle of the GDs’ six-pointed stars intermingled with the words “Black Lives Matter.”

“FREE LARRY HOOVER SR.,” he declared.

Larry hoover
Khalil coleman tribute to larry hoover.

Coleman is a more complicated figure than that, though; he’s been described to us as a “soldier” who is a youth mentor, Safe Zone architect, author, holder of school contracts, and champion of community clean-ups. Milwaukee activist Tory Lowe said Coleman is “a soldier. He has a strong will. Very strong minded. He has a lot of heart. He’s helping a lot of young men.” He believes Coleman only engages in positive activities. Coleman seems respected by Milwaukee’s Black political leadership.

Coleman repeatedly insists that the GDs have taken on a new identity. They are “Growth and Development,” not the Gangster Disciples anymore, a benign philosophical rebirth focused on Black empowerment and positive issues like literacy and political engagement. He says he’s never been part of the Gangster Disciple identity. What is Growth and Development? Hoover created that too; the gang leader switched the Gangster Disciples’ name to Growth and Development in the 1980s, outlining his “Vision” for positive rebirth in a manifesto. Essentially, the kingpin argued his gang was now legit, a do-gooder community org that was helping empower Blacks. The manifesto encourages young Black men to engage in positive community activities. Coleman calls this version of G&D his “way of life.”

In this video, Coleman insists that Growth & Development is a positive, non-violent message for youth. Men flash “L” gang signs for Hoover. “That means cleaning up your neighborhood,” Coleman says.

The problem is that prosecutors and a jury didn’t buy Hoover’s sleight of hand.

“Hoover’s attorney claimed he actually was a political leader being persecuted by the feds. Jurors thought otherwise,” the Chicago Tribune wrote this August of “King Hoover’s” 1995 prosecution. Hoover has been in prison for a 1970s homicide but ran the gang from his state jail cell. The later prosecution put him in federal supermax prison.

Even then, wrote the Tribune, Hoover “tried to recast the Gangster Disciples as a reform group, Growth and Development, that supposedly could steer young people away from lives of crime…The evidence from Hoover’s conversations proved that Growth and Development was just a con job.”

Coleman’s affiliations extend into Hoover’s old-school inner circle. In July, just a few weeks before the ouster of Milwaukee’s police chief, Coleman met with a childhood friend of Hoover’s who was once described as the gang leader’s “righthand” man. The meeting went down in a Milwaukee tavern on the city’s north side. Coleman says they discussed the positive principles of Growth and Development.

The central challenge in deciphering all of this is that Growth and Development adherents also use the gang’s lingo, colors, symbols, initials, and they admire its chairman, Hoover. One community leader we spoke to indicated he’s seen Coleman with men in colors at marches and gets confused about how he’s supposed to tell: Are they Growth and Development or Gangster Disciples?

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Coleman learned about Growth and Development from a Milwaukee teacher at Marshall High, when he was a teenager struggling to find identity almost 25 years after Hoover rebranded his gang. Coleman is the son of a hard-working mom and a father imprisoned for homicide, and he was searching for identity. The GDs were a powerful presence in a neighborhood without many role models in a city plagued by entrenched racial disparities (it’s been called the country’s worst city for Blacks to live). The teacher told him he couldn’t be in “Growth and Development” if he didn’t graduate. So he did.

Coleman thinks Hoover is a political prisoner and calls the gang leader the “Chairman” (Hoover ran the gang with Fortune 500 efficiency). He thinks the government brought drugs purposely to the Black community to destroy “street organizations” during the Civil Rights movement.

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Coleman is in the blue shirt with hoover in the state of wisconsin outline.

Coleman says the teacher’s message saved his life. He calls groups like the GDs, Vice Lords, and Crips “street organizations” known to the government “as gangs.” Such “street organizations” were originally founded as an “establishment of ownership in the community, community identity and the culture of blackness…” he says. The goal was “taking care of one another and protecting the community,” which was “still experiencing police brutality.”

“I love being a representative of Growth & Development Organization (G.D.) because it’s actually a way of life for me,” Coleman wrote on Facebook on Aug. 2. He says emphatically that he’s not involved in the group’s criminal activities. His rhetoric and the People’s Revolution’s policy goals do closely match some of Hoover’s teachings. In his manifesto, Hoover, sounding like a sage of the current prison reform movement, defined as enemies “anyone WHO supports or condones the ‘systematic warehousing’ and destruction of our people.”

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Coleman seems to be operating from the outside despite his political connections, hoping to effect policy change by pressuring politicians to cut police budgets and oust police chiefs. He condemns looting and arsons like those we saw in Kenosha. Some of his rhetoric is harsh, though, and some of the protests get ugly. “F*ck the system,” Coleman’s profile picture read recently. “Sometimes in life we have to pick a side.” He refers to police as “pigs” on his wall.

It’s possible to find recent federal indictments like one in Atlanta where Growth and Development was used as a criminal front. It’s possible to find prosecutors who say it was just a fake rebranding by Hoover to cover up a criminal enterprise, much like the Mafia with its garment shops and community involvement or El Chapo funding youth centers in Sinaloa. Is it possible, though, that someone – Coleman, but also others perhaps – could live out only the positive aspects of the gang leader’s later rhetoric – really live it out?

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Coleman isn’t the only person claiming Growth and Development. You can find this rhetoric all over the country. Unfortunately, some people who use it also fill their Facebook pages with pictures of guns and burning police precincts (we found one such page in Minneapolis run by a former Milwaukee man with a felony drug conviction who has been photographed before with Coleman). We discovered organizations called “strength groups” all over the country that use Growth and Development rhetoric. They use positive language. But on some of their organizers’ pages you see things like this:

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Coleman’s page focuses on marches. Whether the marches – say, those that have snarled up Wauwatosa for months – are positive depends on your perspective. They certainly weren’t positive the day a group went over to Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah’s girlfriend’s house; one People’s Revolution protester, Ronald Bell, is accused of discharging a gun at the officer. He, too, had a Hoover/GD tribute on his Facebook wall. Coleman was there that day. He says what happened that day was a “mistake.”

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Coleman is in the yellow scarf at a recent wauwatosa protest.

Protests in Wauwatosa have been ugly, with abusive comments shouted at police officers. “That’s the sh*t that gets a lieutenant smacked,” a woman said to an officer at one recent Wauwatosa protest that Coleman attended. People shouted “f*ck the police” and called the officers “p*ssies.” Coleman, who is in the yellow scarf in the video below, shouted, when officers gave the crowd three minutes to disburse, “Take them three minutes and shove them up your ass. Because we not going anywhere. Take those three minutes and shove them up your Chief’s ass.” That can be seen at the 2:00 mark.

Here is another video to give you the flavor of what is happening in Wauwatosa.

To prosecutors, the Gangster Disciples and Growth and Development are the same organization.

“Growth & Development was just a façade as an effort (by Hoover) to get parole,” insists Ron Safer, the lead Hoover prosecutor who put the gang leader away in federal prison in the 1990s. We spoke to him by telephone. “It was a total and complete fabrication.” Parole was denied. Safer compares Hoover to John Gotti and El Chapo but believes Hoover is “much brighter than John Gotti.”

Is it possible that someone could live out the principles of Growth & Development without continuing to participate in crime? Safer is skeptical. “Hoover was saying the same things, and he was a fake.” He conceded that someone could actually “live the cover story.”

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The rhetoric of the minneapolis gd-affiliated “strength group” and a picture from the page of one of its leaders.

“If they buy the façade and live the facade, God love them,” Safer said. “But if they use the façade as Hoover did, then they belong in jail with him.”

Violence Spills Over After a Police Chief’s Ouster

Just a few weeks after meeting the Gangster Disciples’ co-founder, Ike Taylor, in a Milwaukee tavern, Coleman stood at the side of Milwaukee’s then Fire and Police Commission Chair Steven DeVougas and former Common Council president and Alderman Ashanti Hamilton. The crowd chanted for the firing of Alfonso Morales, a Mexican-American chief once declared a hero when he shot a gun-wielding gang member in a courtroom.

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For months, Chief Morales was dogged by Black Lives Matter and other activists calling for his firing, and the civilian commission socked him with lengthy directives but now didn’t appear willing to let him try meeting them.

“I just received a call, VERY IMPORTANT, we need to be at MPD (Milwaukee Police Department) administration building…for a very important press conference, regarding FPC airing out the chief & mayor of Milwaukee for lack (sic) leadership,” Coleman wrote on Facebook on Aug. 6. “IT’S TIME! LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION!”

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Coleman closed the event by telling the media, “I think the chair has made his statement.” A few hours later, the chief was demoted.

Coleman now says DeVougas called him “to stand with him as he’s making the announcement in regards to the chief.” Coleman says he has a long history with the commission because of past protests.

It wasn’t long after the chief’s demotion, though, that the protest movement turned violent.

Wauwatosa straddles Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, with their different philosophies and views of police, and Mayfair Mall has often been a magnet for diversity and conflict, a dividing line.

Violence boiled over, when 28-year-old Bell was accused of wielding a shotgun, which discharged at Mensah and his girlfriend. It was a chaotic scene with people running around the officer’s yard. Coleman was there. Mensah’s girlfriend posted photos of her bruises, Bell’s been charged with a felony; Mensah, who is Black, fatally shot three men on duty since 2015. All three shootings were ruled justified self-defense by the Milwaukee County DA.

Joseph mensah girlfriend
Joseph mensah’s girlfriend shared these photos of her injuries on facebook.

Photos on Bell’s Facebook page show what appear to be drugs and large wads of cash. In one comment, he referred to it as “dope boy money.”

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Ronald bell facebook page.

His appears in the list of signatories on the People’s Revolution letter to the Wauwatosa Fire and Police Commission from July that sought the chief’s firing and a reduced budget. Coleman admits Bell was “a protester.”

“I think he made a mistake,” Coleman says. “I wish things could have went a different way, I really do. It’s unfortunate. I feel bad about the situation. I never want to see people get hurt.” He said there was a lot of tension and partly blamed Mensah for “coming out of the house… We all could have done things different that day. I was present that day. Things happened so fast there were a lot of things I didn’t see.”

Larry hoover
Bell’s facebook post on gangster disciple gang leader larry hoover. Credit: facebook

“I don’t know or recognize him to be Growth and Development,”  Coleman insists, despite the Hoover tribute on the accused shooter’s page (see above).

“He can’t speak for other people,” Henry, the Baldwin staffer, interjects, cutting the line of questioning off.

We challenged Coleman on the fact that, in one of the shootings they’re protesting so adamantly in Wauwatosa, police say Alvin Cole, 17, had a gun and discharged it first in the Mayfair Mall parking lot. A review of Cole’s Facebook pages shows he went by the name “GlockBoy ManMan” on social media. Cole wrote things like, “Wake up in the morning I got murder on my mind !!”

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“Alvin Cole is dead. He don’t have a chance to tell his story. It’s the dead man vs. the cop. That’s the problem. That’s why we’re in Tosa,” Coleman says. His group wants a police body camera requirement, and a ban on chokeholds and no knock search warrants.

According to Coleman, the Cole family disputes the police narrative, is still seeking records, and no one has seen the ballistics.

“So, respectfully can we not get into anymore of this,” interjects Henry.

What does the People’s Revolution want? On Sept. 6, the group “released its demands.” Among them: “Defunding the Milwaukee Police Department” by slicing $100 million off the budgets of Milwaukee County law enforcement agencies. The group is demanding the resignation of Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber and a “permanent hold” on “any increase in the budget to the Wauwatosa Police Department.”

We pressed Coleman: Why focus on the police? They come in on the back end. What about Milwaukee’s political leadership? Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett has been in office for nearly half of Coleman’s life. Coleman explained that it’s a racist system. We reminded him that the police chief, sheriff, city attorney, many aldermen, and the county executive are Black. He says they are just people in a racist system. He said they’ve protested at Barrett’s house as well. It’s hard to run candidates against Barrett because of finances, he says, claiming the city reduced polling places in the Black community when Lena Taylor, who is also Black, ran.

“When you look at the disparities and the issues Black people have been dealing with in Milwaukee, it hasn’t changed in 20 years,” he says. He’s right about those disparities. They are intolerable. Yet the protesters are focusing their ire on a former Mexican-American police chief and neighboring suburb’s Black cop. For that matter, who does a reduction in police strength benefit?

Coleman acknowledges that he wants to “defund the police.” He defines the approach as shifting money in the police budget toward crime prevention programs and social workers. Surprising us, he doesn’t support cutting or not filling officer positions (Barrett is reducing the force size by not filling 120 such positions). Could police reduction cause crime to increase? He doesn’t acknowledge the point.

We asked whether Coleman has considered how the protest movement – especially the way it’s turned into rioting – is causing harm to the Black community by driving out business. He commented that “people” are more important.

A Father’s Homicide Conviction & Escape

Khalil colemanColeman was born in Brooklyn but came to Milwaukee at age 1 with his mother, an order filler for JC Penneys who also worked at the Post Office. He went to six high schools. He described his mom as a “hard working independent woman” and positive influence. “My father was facing a life sentence when I came to Milwaukee. He was extradited to Wisconsin. That’s how we ended up here,” he says.

His father, Carl Estrada, who used the alias Lamont Coleman, was imprisoned for homicide and was a fugitive from justice for 11 years after escaping from a Waupun facility. Old newspaper articles show Estrada was sentenced to life in prison for the 1969 holdup slaying of Terry O’Keefe, a Vietnam veteran working as a Western Union clerk.

Another old newspaper article, written by Estrada in prison, described him as “acting inmate chairman of the Lifer’s Club,” designed “to coordinate self-help programs and other rehabilitative projects. Up until that time, lifers were a forgotten group of men.” Estrada escaped from Waupun in 1976. He earned a college degree in New York, “establishing a business and fathering six children by three women without being identified as a fugitive,” an old Associated Press article says.

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Newspapers. Com article on coleman’s dad.

It’s not hard to see how prison reform and a powerful, imprisoned male figure like Hoover would resonate.

Coleman’s mom used to take him to visit his father in prison, but then stopped, so he didn’t see his father until the man was paroled in 2010. Estrada converted to Islam and died in 2015. Estrada once had a trucking business in New York selling bread, milk, and cheese and was a prison guard. How did this affect Coleman? “A lot of it caused me to look for identity,” he says. “That’s how I took on the identity of Growth and Development. Part of it was connecting to a cause.”

He lost about 10 friends to gun violence. He grows emotional as he describes the name of the first friend lost, David Robinson. “He was 15, and I was 15.” A lot of friends were in jail and prison. “I knew my life needed to be different,” he says. He started reading civil rights books.

“In 1982, the chairman, Larry Hoover, came up with a new concept…It evolved this old concept of Gangster Disciple mentality, of the Gangster Disciple Nation, and evolved it into the Growth and Development lifestyle of organization,” Coleman told us.

“Of course, a lot of people did not honor and follow that memo. A lot of people still to this day claim to be part of the Gangster Disciple Nation, but in the true teaching of GDs, that was all supposed to merge from Gangster Disciple lifestyle to Growth and Development lifestyle, which was about education, economics, political development, social development, organizational development, and unity.”

He insists: “It really changed my life…It means I’ve made a transition in my life from a negative way to a positive way.” As for Hoover, he’s “paying his price for things he’s done in the past…What he’s saying now is don’t be like me.”

Coleman believes “Gangster Disciple is a mentality. It’s an old way of thinking.”

Coleman, who protested the deaths of Dontre Hamilton and Derek Williams through Occupy the Hood, helped start a Safe Zone initiative that received government money. He said it reduced homicide and included outreach from “hood ambassadors.” He said he’s sold thousands of copies of a book he wrote about the inner city to several Wisconsin school districts, and that he’s been contracted to create peer mediation programs at Milwaukee’s Riverside High. “My classes revolve around literacy,” he says.

Coleman does have a criminal history dating to 2010. He says that was “dismissed,” but he was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession and bail jumping A woman said he often left a 40.caliber Glock handgun loaded “within the reach of their child,” according to the criminal complaint, which said authorities confiscated marijuana, the gun, knives, and two ski masks. The complaint alleged he violated a no contact order. He was allegedly found with a handgun in another case, a charge dismissed but read-in. He’s had no charges for a decade.

“Milwaukee is a very violent, segregated, and impoverished community,” he says. “Mass incarceration is major.” We challenged Coleman again on whether police are to blame (or are they just the most visible target?) He puts the blame on “City leadership. You don’t see that in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, and these are blocks away from each other. We’re not talking across the ocean. What makes my community different than theirs?”

Sen. Lena Taylor told The Washington Post that Coleman and others “have been doing all kinds of community work — gun violence interruption, helping people with evictions.”

Coleman was pictured with County Executive David Crowley in March. Taylor wrote, “You make us all proud and provide so much hope to the young people you touch daily!” A 2019 photo shows him with U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s son, S. Moore Omokunde. “The guys of Growth & Development with legendary Dr. Howard Fuller!” Coleman wrote in a photo with former MPS Superintendent Fuller. He called former state Rep. Jason Fields his mentor, receiving this response, “Love you lil bro! Proud of you on so many levels!”

He’s been photographed with former Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton. He’s shared photos of a City Hall youth summit, Black tuxedo event, and city violence prevention meeting. Taylor, Hamilton, and Fields did not return requests for comment.

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Coleman with former common council president and alderman ashanti hamilton. (facebook)

“G & D (Growth and Development) is more than one thing,” agrees University of Illinois Professor John Hagedorn.

“It reflects the belief of gang members that they are doing something worthwhile. At the same time the drug dealing and violence continue. I had Larry Hoover Jr. speak in my class at UIC, and he ran the G & D (Growth & Development) is what the GDs are all about and wouldn’t talk about drugs. He claimed GDs try to stop the violence. My class saw through him…There are multiple ties between GD leaders and Chicago’s Outfit, the local mafia.…The ideology of G & D (Growth and Development) is positive, however those ideas have a long history in Chicago of covering up for organized crime dating back to Al Capone. G & D is also a rationale to release Larry Hoover on parole. Not happening.”

Safer suggests: “It’s not what you say; it’s what you do. If you are then picking up a gun, you are a gangster. If you’re picking up a book, then you are building our future.”

Hagedorn and Safer think disparities fuel gangs. “You see these kids selling drugs, you see people lined up to buy drugs from them, and you see nothing else,” Safer says. “There’s no drug store, there’s no grocery store, there’s no dry cleaners, there’s no bank, there’s nothing…There are no alternatives.” What about education, hard work? There are “very few role models” for that.

A ‘Brilliant, Charismatic’ Leader

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An image of larry hoover in the state of wisconsin from the facebook page of a local growth & development adherent.

Hoover’s sleight of hand complicates the Growth and Development story. Safer says the government had Hoover on weeks of tape running a criminal enterprise after he claimed the gang was now Growth and Development. The youth of Chicago took the bullets on the street corners.

Coleman says he doesn’t know about that, but the inner city has flawed heroes by necessity. “In my community, many times we don’t have doctors and lawyers…so anyone willing to change your life in a positive direction is okay,” he said, stressing that he is “not applauding any doping and murder.” It’s important if an individual can say: “Don’t be like me.”

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Hoover, 69, penned his 45-page manifesto called “Blueprint of a New Concept” that preached literacy, business development, prison reform, and political engagement. Growth and Development. It’s a bit like adopting Don Corleone’s positive manifesto and claiming it’s not the mob.

The rhetoric of Black Lives Matter, People’s Revolution, and Coleman closely matches the gang’s interests when it comes to inmate releases and policing reform. “The Gangster Disciples are by far the most populous gang in the prison system,” says Safer, who thinks a true community activist should discard Hoover’s terminology.

“Larry Hoover, I truly believe that when he developed the understanding, the concept of Growth and Development, that he wanted those younger people coming up the pipeline to not follow the path of before,” says Coleman.

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Part of hoover’s blueprint for growth and development.

“You don’t make some noise, then nothing’s gonna change,” Hoover told The Chicago Reader publication in 1995. “…You need to have a movement, because you don’t have a black movement nowadays. They [young people] have nothing to point to. They have no Martin Luther Kings or Malcolm Xs.” Instead, they revere Hoover. And now they have Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis changed things. Suddenly, inmate releases and the abolishing of police departments seemed possible. The “Chairman of the Board” is seeking resentencing under a 2018 prison reform law signed by President Donald Trump at the urging of Chicago-raised Kanye West and his wife. The media made likable Alice Johnson the poster child; West brought Hoover’s lawyer into the Oval Office. Several of Hoover’s lieutenants have already been released. “Larry Hoover is an example of a man that was trying to turn his life around,” West said, calling for Hoover’s freedom.

“This is a great first step,” Larry Hoover Jr. wrote on Facebook in 2018 of the prison reform law, which allows federal inmates with crack cocaine convictions to seek early release.

Safer described Hoover as “brilliant, charismatic, tremendously organized, and amoral, violent, greedy and really a traitor to the (Growth & Development) cause that he articulated.” He says the Gangster Disciples were “the largest monolithic gang that our nation has ever known. And everyone reported to one person, Larry Hoover.”

Hoover modeled his criminal enterprise on Al Capone’s and Mayor Daley’s. Safer says GDs committed thousands of murders across the country. “Part of that campaign (by Hoover) for parole was to say, ‘Look, I have transformed the GDs into Growth and Development,’” Safer said in an interview.

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“‘Now we have board members who are running this organization, and it’s just like any other organization. We’re for health care, registering for elections.’ They had a public interest group called 21st Century VOTE. They organized demonstrations. Some of the community activism, you would say, yes, that’s legitimate.”

Safer contended: “Unfortunately, it was largely a façade for his continued drug operation. He (Hoover) is a charismatic leader who could have run a community organization for good, but he chose not to. He chose instead to run a ruthless, drug operation, and he is on tape talking about the corruption of the youth of Chicago….That’s the Growth and Development plan for the city of Chicago. It was to create this army of people who would sell his drugs…nothing more, nothing less.”

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A photo on ike taylor’s page.

Hagedorn says it’s important “to understand that gangs are not one thing.” Hagedorn adds:

It is normal to believe both G&D (Growth and Development) ideology and go out and sell drugs and maybe shoot at a rival. This struggle within gangs is literally life and death and it has always been going on. Gang members…are not unfeeling monsters, but real live human beings with complex emotions. As Black people they love their community and race. The old leaders haven’t fully grasped the lessons of the 1990s when battles over drug markets took thousands of lives in Chicago.

According to the professor, “some GDs came to Milwaukee with their families trying to get away from the violence in Chicago in the 70s. As gangs formed here…the kids ‘took sides’ and lined up with the image of Chicago gangs. But some major Chicago gang figures also migrated. One of the guys I worked with the closest married Larry Hoover’s sister who lived here… Chicago gang members brought with them the literature, and the kids gobbled it up.”

The most violent years in Milwaukee, until this year, were driven partly by “a GD spin-off the BOS (Brothers of the Struggle),” Hagedorn says. After Safer’s indictments, the gang fractured. He says gangs today are often neighborhood crews that align with rappers.

An Original Gangster Comes to Milwaukee

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A photo on ike taylor’s facebook page.

Ike Taylor, an OG (original gangster) who met with Coleman at the North 20th Street Milwaukee tap in July, grew up with Hoover. As far back as 1964, Taylor, a founder of the Supreme Gangsters gang that merged into the Gangster Disciples, was described as Hoover’s “right hand man.”

Taylor stands in the middle of the picture below. Coleman, wearing a mask with the Gangster Disciples symbol, stands on Taylor’s left. “P.M.L. my G!” Coleman wrote.

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Khalil coleman is on right. Ike taylor is in the middle with the cane.

A post shared on Taylor’s Facebook page refers to Taylor as the “co-founder of Growth and Development.” On Facebook, Taylor, who did not return request for comment, wrote recently, “Larry is not the leader or Chairman of, BGDN (Black Gangster Disciples Nation). Larry is the former and retired Chairman of Growth and Development. A thousand times Larry was asked if he wanted to leave the penitentiary. I know because I asked him at least 500 times.”

The Free Larry Hoover Facebook page explains how Taylor shared a jail cell with Hoover in the 1970s. “They would remain BGDN (Black Gangster Disciple Nation) at their Core forever.”

On July 10, Taylor wrote that he was heading north:

Okay You Cheeseheads. Da Bears in your State. I will be stopping in Kenosha and Racine Tonight. (Another Milwaukee man) and Khalil Coleman, I will be at our Pre-Arranged Destination. 3 p.m. sharp…Am Definitely Looking Forward to Seeing And Being With My Brothers and Sisters of the Struggle in Milwaukee Tomorrow…Plenty Much Love.” Brothers of the Struggle is a common reference of the GDs.

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The other milwaukee man set to meet with ike taylor.

Taylor wrote about the meeting later on Facebook.

Thanks to all my Brothers and Sisters of the Struggle…it truly was an honor to meet and greet you all. Thanks for making the Vision a Reality. Thanks for being One of the Willing.
I really do appreciate my personal and Milwaukee’s security team…Milwaukee is so G&D…The love and respect for the Chairman, me and G&D was so obvious, evident and on display.

“The struggle is truly alive in Wisconsin,” declared a Milwaukee man. “Free Hoover,” commented another.

“We had the opportunity to officially meet Ike Taylor,” Coleman explains. “He was one of the original founders of BGD (Black Gangster Disciples) at the time, and one of the things he shared with us was how proud he was of the concept of Growth and Development. He too is a believer in the concept of Growth and Development.” He says protests never came up.

Taylor was part of the Pontiac inmates accused of staging a prison riot in the 1970s that left three guards dead. They were charged but acquitted. On a shirt he posted, Taylor is called “Ike ‘King Ike’ Taylor (High Supreme Gangster/Black Gangster Disciple Nation)… he started Gangster Disciple on the West Side of Chicago.”

Khalil coleman
A photo on the ike taylor facebook page.

“It’s time for you Brothers in your 30’s and 40’s to pull up your pants…Try being a respectful gentleman gangster for a minute or two. I promise, you will go so much farther in life,” Taylor wrote on Facebook recently.

Taylor is described on Facebook as “DEAR GRAND ELDER AND CO-CHAIRMAN IKE-T.”

Taylor is a convicted attempted murderer. “In the early 1970s Ike Taylor was convicted of attempted murder and other charges after the shooting of Albert Harris,” says Chicago Gang History. “In the court case of People vs. Taylor on December 24, 1974, Albert Harris was walking home from a friend’s house and was down the street from where he lived. Harris stopped walking when he heard the clicking sound of a gun, he turned and claimed he saw Ike Taylor standing there holding a pistol. Harris said that Ike said, ‘It ain’t nothing but a Gangster Thing.'”

He protests his innocence. However, the article adds, “In later years Ike Taylor would become a positive leader and positive advocate for the Growth and Development concepts of the Gangster Disciples.”

Khalil coleman
A recent photo on ike taylor’s facebook page.

In March, Coleman was photographed in what was described as “organizational Sunday” for visitors from Arizona. “…AZ is on a rise of Growth And Developement (sic),” a man wrote, using gang symbols.

In February, Coleman was in Chicago with Taylor at the funeral of a man called “Gov.,” Duffie Clark. Governor is a high-ranking title in the GDs. Clark was paroled after serving 34 years in prison on murder convictions he says weren’t fair. Coleman says Duffie Clark was a positive mentor “to a lot of younger guys.”

Hagedorn was “friends with Duffie Clark who was Hoover’s cell mate while the Blueprint of Growth & Development was being written. Duffie works as a para legal and has made a major contribution to reentry… He spouts the G &D Line… I’m sure he holds some prestigious title and communicates regularly with Larry, for what’s that worth.”

Khalil colemanA photo shows Clark giving Coleman an award for “outstanding service,” next to a man flashing an ‘L” sign for Larry Hoover.

“You (Clark) will forever be a legend and push to continue on with Growth and Development! Thank you,” Coleman wrote. “It was an honor and privilege to have you as a leader.”

Disclosure: Jessica McBride is the niece of Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride.

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Trump Thwarts Haley in Her Native South Carolina, Rolls on to Michigan

Sweeping a fourth consecutive primary by a significant margin, former President Donald Trump left South Carolina victorious on Saturday and on a roll heading into Michigan on Tuesday.

Nikki Haley, two-term governor of South Carolina and a former United Nations ambassador in Trump’s administration, was overwhelmed in unofficial very early vote count totals. The race was called minutes after the closing of polls at 7 p.m. Eastern.

South Carolinians, who do not register by party and could choose to vote in either but not both primaries, in early voting exceeded the more than 131,000 votes cast – about 4% – in the Democratic primary on Feb. 3 when 96% chose President Joe Biden.

South Carolina has about 3.3 million registered voters and gets nine of the 538 Electoral College votes in November's general election.

At stake in the South’s first Republican primary were 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on July 15-18. Twenty-nine went to Trump as the statewide winner; three delegates each go to winners in the seven congressional districts, respectively. Those results were still pending at time of publication, though Trump was projected to up his total to 44 of the state's 50.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Trump said in a victory speech that began minutes after the polls closed. "You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work."

The nation’s 45th president added to previous caucuses and primary wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the first non-incumbent GOP candidate to open with such a sweep since 1976's primary and caucuses calendar change. Since 1980, only Newt Gingrich in 2012 won South Carolina's Republican primary without reaching the national ticket.

In a social media post in the final hour before polls closed, Haley wrote, "Filled with gratitude today. Getting to vote with my mom and my kids at my side is a memory I’ll cherish forever."

Immigration, inflation, energy, an America-first foreign policy and revenge from the 2020 loss to Biden have been hallmarks of the 77-year-old Trump’s campaign.

“No country could sustain what is happening to the United States of America,” Trump, during his victory speech, said of the ongoing situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. “Right now, our country is a laughing stock all over the world. Our country is going to be respected again, respected like never before.”

On the campaign trail in Rock Hill on Friday, Trump said Haley was staying in the race to help Democrats. The flip side is Haley’s supporters see Trump and his 91 criminal charges as the GOP choice that Democrats would want to face their candidate.

Trump also served up comments on race – sparking partisan critiques – when speaking to a friendly crowd at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia later in the evening.

Haley, 52, was in Greenville on Tuesday saying she’s campaigning to save the country, led by the topics of education, economy, immigration, homicides, fentanyl and foreign policy. She voted in Kiawah Island on Saturday morning, having spent Friday in Moncks Corner among other stops.

Haley says Trump brings chaos and will be unelectable in the general election, though national polls including The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll disagree. In a Marquette Law School national poll released Wednesday, proposed 1-on-1 races have Haley defeating Biden 58%-42% and Trump beating Biden 51%-49%.

Prior to Saturday, Real Clear Politics' polling average showed Trump ahead of Haley 63%-32% in South Carolina. Nationally, the advantage climbs to 75%-17%.

While Haley has tirelessly been asked about stepping out of the race, campaign manager Betsy Ankney on Friday confirmed a “seven-figure” ad buy for Super Tuesday states. The March 5 primary schedule includes 15 Republican and 14 Democratic primaries.

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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Wisconsin GOP Congressmen: Evers Drew Congressional Maps He Wants Struck Down

(The Center Square) – Some of Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen say there is a problem with Gov. Tony Evers’ latest problems with the state’s political maps.

Evers this week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take a look at the state’s congressional maps.

"MONDAY: I signed fair maps for Wisconsin’s Legislature," Evers tweeted Wednesday. "NEXT UP: fair maps for our congressional districts."

The liberal law firm The Elias Group has already asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s congressional maps, just like the court reconsidered the state’s legislative maps.

The high court tossed those state maps back in December. But Wisconsin lawmakers ended the court’s review and replacement by passing Evers’ preferred maps for Assembly and Senate districts.

Western Wisconsin Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden on Wednesday pointed out the Congressional maps are also Evers’ own.

“The maps are a 100% product of the Dems,” Van Orden said in a tweet. “Evers drew them. Zero Republicans voted for them. Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. US Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. This is a naked power Dem grab.”

WOW County Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald said the same thing.

“I’d like to remind @GovEvers that he is asking the State Supreme Court to review the Congressional maps HE drew,” Fitzgerald said in a tweet. “The map he is now seeking to overturn was drafted by Evers and based off a 2011 bipartisan map, approved by the liberals on the state Supreme Court and survived a challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Evers said reviewing the Congressional maps is part of his effort to “do the right thing.”

"We want to end gerrymandering in Wisconsin at every level, so I’m asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review our congressional maps to make sure those are fair, too."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not yet said what it plans to do with the challenge to the congressional maps.

school choice policies

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Plan to Splits Choice School Funding From Public Schools

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin is considering a massive shift in how public and choice schools get their money.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the plan to decouple the Racine and statewide school voucher programs, replacing the local property tax money that currently pays for those programs with state dollars.

“Currently, legacy charter schools are completely funded by [general purpose revenues]. The Milwaukee Choice program will be funded completely by GPR by 2025,” Rep. Ellen Schutt, R-Clinton, said. “What this bill does, is says that new independent charter schools, and the rest of the choice program should also be funded by GPR and not by aid-reductions from the local school district.”

That would shift millions of dollars for choice schools in Wisconsin from local school districts to the state.

It would also mean a steadier and more reliable stream of dollars for choice schools.

“Decoupling resolves an issue that involves how the current funding mechanism affect public schools and property taxes. This has been a sore spot that creates unnecessary tension between public and private schools,” School Choice Wisconsin President Nic Kelly told The Center Square. “Decoupling is good tax policy that was already enacted for Milwaukee years ago. We want the rest of the state to be treated the same way.”

Decoupling would mean a boost for public schools. Schutt’s legislation would give public schools a one-time, 25% revenue limit increase. The legislature says that will cost as much as $351 million for the next school year.

Some public schools could end up losing money in general state aid, but the decouple legislation would hold them harmless.

“This bill will really help our public schools when they're setting their budgets every year, giving them some idea about how much money they truly will have,” Schutt added. “It will fix the confusion that is currently out there with the way we fund choice and charter, because it's different based on the type of school it is. We had some administrators come down to testify and say that this was really a great idea, and actually Gov. [Tony] Evers supported this idea when he was the superintendent back in 2015.”

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, however said during debate on the plan that Evers’ office no longer wants to talk about decoupling.

The proposal next heads to the Wisconsin Senate.

Tyler August milwaukee drop boxes

Assembly Majority Leader Puts Responsibility on Milwaukee to Restore Faith in Vote Count

(The Center Square) – The number-two in the Wisconsin Assembly says if lawmakers can’t come to terms on an early count law, it is up to Milwaukee to restore the voters’ faith in their election operation.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he doesn’t have the votes to pass Monday Count legislation. It would allow Milwaukee to count ballots the day before election day in order to avoid an after-midnight vote dump.

Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said Republicans in the Senate should vote on the plan. If they don't, August said, then Milwaukee’s election managers need to act.

“It's incumbent upon the city of Milwaukee to get their act together and count those ballots during the day and have that done so that there isn't constantly this question about the processes in the city of Milwaukee,” August said.

Milwaukee uses a central count location, and election managers in the city say that slows down the counting of absentee ballots. Many times, that leaves a lull between when the votes from election day are tallied, and when the absentee vote count is delivered.

Critics say that lull, and the after-midnight ballot drop, leads to questions about election integrity in Milwaukee.

“People feel like the election is heading in one direction, [then] all the ballots come in at one time in the middle of the night, and it appears that there's some kind of nefarious nature to what's going on,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday.

Critics of the Monday Count plan also see room for something nefarious. They fear that if Milwaukee has an absentee ballot count ahead of election day, then someone can somehow manufacture an exact number of votes to win.

August said other communities in Wisconsin don’t have the same troubles as Milwaukee and said that’s part of the problem.

“When I go to vote in the city of Lake Geneva they are processing those absentee ballots, there are hundreds of them in Lake Geneva, as well as a smaller staff, less election workers than in the city of Milwaukee has, and they're able to get those done and part of their report that they send into the county clerk by like 9 p.m.,” August said. “So, Milwaukee needs to take a look at what they're doing when it comes to counting absentee ballots, and for their own sake to prove to the people that their processes are secure, and safe, and fair. And get those reports in well before the middle of the night.”

Migrant Students Abbott's Defense of the Border

Denver Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Challenge’ With Influx of Migrant Students

Denver’s public school system has been taking in as many as 250 new students a week since the new year, which it attributes to the increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero called the situation an “unprecedented challenge” in a message to the community posted on the district’s website. The district said the influx of new students will cost an additional $837,000 “to support additional needs across the system.”

From July 1, 2023 to January 2024, there were 3,221 new-to-country students with more than 1,300 coming to Denver schools since Oct. 1, 2023, the district stated.

The district is hiring more staff to deal with the increase in students and focusing on hiring people who are bilingual, according to the superintendent.

“The pace of new arrivals has remained steady since the start of 2024, with roughly 200-250 students joining us each week,” a report to the school board stated last week.

On Feb. 5, the city of Denver started enforcing 42-day limits on migrants living in city-owned shelters.

“We are watching enrollment data closely over the next few weeks to see if/how our student population moves in response,” the report stated.

The school district provides a phone number to call “to speak to someone in your language.”

The district has struggled with dwindling enrollment since the pandemic. Enrollment reached 93,800 in the 2019-20 school year and then fell to 90,300 in the 2020-2021 pandemic year. In 2021-22, enrollment stayed about the same at 90,250 and then dropped to 89,200 in 2022-23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending migrants from Texas to sanctuary cities across the U.S. On Feb. 12, Abbott posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Texas has bused more than 16,200 migrants to Denver.

"Texas will not stop until President Biden secures the border," Abbott stated on X.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Governor’s Veto Powers Wisconsin Republicans Parental Bill of Rights Outlaw Child Sex Dolls Embrace Them Both Unemployment Reforms Wisconsin’s Professional Licensing Bail Reform Amendment wisconsin covid-19

Wisconsin Assembly Eyes Limits on Governor’s Veto Powers

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are taking the first step to reign in some of the governor’s veto power.

Lawmakers on Tuesday took up Assembly Joint Resolution 112, which would change the Wisconsin Constitution to stop the governor from raising a tax or a fee on his own.

“Wisconsin's unique partial veto is considered one of the most powerful policy tools in the country,” Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, told reporters. “From Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's infamous Vanna White veto, to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers 402-year tax increase, we have seen abuse of the partial veto addressed with proposed constitutional amendments by legislatures nearly 30 times in the last century.”

Nedweski said this proposed constitutional amendment would apply to Evers specifically, but would apply to all future governor’s as well by banning the governor from single handedly increasing taxes or creating fees.

“The will of the people is the law of the land, not the will of the governor,” Nedweski added. “This would appropriately rebalance power between the executive and the legislature, and further restrict the executive from completely rewriting the law. The governor is not a legislator, and the partial veto was not intended to give the governor legislative power.”

Tuesday's vote was the first vote for the plan. It would need to pass the legislature again next year before it would go to the voters, likely next spring.

“We very narrowly crafted this legislation to address the specific situations that we believe members of the public would find the most egregious, the ability for a single person to increase taxes or fees on the people of Wisconsin with the single stroke of a pen,” Nedweski said. “The people should not be subjected to political trickery that does not reflect their will as represented by their legislators.”

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Robin Vos: Medical Marijuana Not Going to Happen This Year

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s assembly speaker is not calling his proposal for medical marijuana dead, but he says it’s not going to happen this year.

Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Thursday there are too many different views of marijuana to find a consensus on a strict-medical only plan.

“I think we have now seen, unfortunately, people who from the very beginning have said that they have concerns that this will lead to widespread recreational marijuana and many of my colleagues on the other side continue to say that that is their goal which of course that's their right,” Vos said.

Vos’ plan would create five state-owned marijuana dispensaries that would sell non-smokable marijuana to people with 15 specific health conditions.

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate, specifically, don’t like the idea of state-owned pot shops.

“I still think we have the votes in the Assembly to pass it,” Vos added. “I've not had anybody come to me who was a supporter and say they have changed their position. But when we see that the Senate wants to have a more liberal version than one that we're willing to pass, it probably doesn't leave us enough time with the waiting days of the session to get an answer that both chambers can adopt.”

Democrats in Wisconsin have made no secret of their support for fully legal, recreational marijuana and never signed on to Vos’ plan either.

Wisconsin remains one of just 12 states without a medical marijuana law. Wisconsin is one of 26 states that has not legalized recreational marijuana.

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Trump’s First Criminal Trial Date in New York Scheduled for March 25

Former President Donald Trump’s first criminal trial date, in a case involving porn actress Stormy Daniels, will be March 25.

A New York judge rejected a request to dismiss the case from Trump. He faces charges in multiple states while commanding the lead for the Republican nomination in the presidential race.

His lawyers, appearing before Judge Juan Manuel Merchan, said the case will interfere with his campaign to return to the White House. Trump has three other prosecutions unresolved, one of which involved a district attorney under heavy scrutiny in Georgia on Thursday.

Trump’s defense lawyer, Todd Blanche, said the president should not be spending the next two months in preparation for a trial when he should be on the campaign trail. Trump, after the decision, said he would be in court during the day and “campaigning during the night.” It echoes previous statements he has made.

This New York case, with a prosecution led by District Attorney Alvin Bragg, was the first for the former president to be charged with a crime. Others followed in Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Trump and his legal team say no crime was committed. Prosecutors say he falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), former Playboy model Karen McDougal ($150,000), and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors say the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements.

Reportedly, the payments kept quiet accusations of sexual affairs, including birth of a child.

Cyrus Vance Jr., whom Bragg followed into the office, declined to pursue the case. The charges are punishable by up to four years in prison.