The Gilbert Goons – Crimes in Local News
In the fall of 2023, Arizona’s East Valley was rocked by a series of violent group attacks carried out by teenagers on local citizens. In the time since, a possible gang known as the “Gilbert Goons” has emerged as the culprit of the violence.
According to a timeline published by KTAR, the first attack attributed to the group was carried out on August 18th, 2023 against a minor outside a fast-food restaurant in Gilbert, Arizona. On October 30th, high school student Preston Lord died as a result of an attack at a Queen Creek Halloween party only two days prior, leading to FBI involvement in the investigation of his death. On November 18th, a teenage boy was attacked by the group in San Tan Valley.
On December 28th, 2023, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office received charges submitted by the Queen Creek Police Department against seven suspects, including minors.
On January 8th, 2024, the Gilbert Police Department began investigating the Gilbert Goons specifically for eight cases involving teen violence. This investigation would help determine whether or not the group could be classified as a criminal street gang.
On January 10th, 20-year-old Jacob Pennington was arrested in connection with the attacks and stated his association with the Gilbert Goons, marking this as the first official connection between the attacks and the Goons. Arrests of two 18-year-olds and two 16-year-olds were also made.
Are the Gilbert Goons a Criminal Street Gang?
As of January 11, 2024, law enforcement is still investigating whether the Gilbert Goons can be classified by law as a criminal street gang. If so, the members can face particularly harsh penalties. Arizona defines a criminal street gang as:
An ongoing formal or informal association of persons in which members or associates individually or collectively engage in the commission, attempted commission, facilitation, or solicitation of any felony act and that has at least one individual who is a criminal street gang member.
A person is considered a member of a criminal street gang if they meet at least two of the following criteria:
- Witness testimony or official statement
- Written or electronic correspondence
- Paraphernalia or photographs
- Clothing or colors
- Any other indicia of street gang membership
Those involved in criminal street gangs can face sentence enhancements that raise misdemeanor crimes to felonies, increase incarcerations lengths, and limit eligibility for probation or diversion programs.
Criminal Charges for the Offenders
The Gilbert Goons, or those otherwise involved in carrying out these violent attacks, have been charged with, or can be facing, a variety of criminal charges for their actions. These include:
Participating in a Criminal Street Gang – Participating in a criminal street gang is a class 2 felony in the state of Arizona. First-time offenders can face incarceration of up to 12.5 years. “Participating in” can include directing, financing, inciting, promoting, and furnishing advice regarding any criminal objectives of a gang.
Assisting a Criminal Street Gang – Assisting a criminal street gang is a class 3 felony in the state of Arizona. First-time offenders can face incarceration of up to 8.75 years. Charges result when an individual commits a felony offense for or with a criminal street gang.
Assault – Assault is broadly defined as causing physical injury or a reasonable apprehension of harm, or committing unwanted touching with harmful intent, to another person. Assault can be charged as a class 1, 2, or 3 misdemeanor for which first-time offenders can face incarceration of up to six months.
Aggravated Assault – An individual can be charged with aggravated assault in particularly serious assault scenarios. This includes inflicting serious physical injury, using a deadly weapon, or impairing a victim’s ability to resist. Relevant to cases involving minors, such as the Gilbert Goons investigation, an offender 18 years old or older can be charged with aggravated assault if the victim was under 15 years old.
Aggravated assault can be charged as a class 2 through a class 6 felony offense, depending on the circumstances. Incarceration lengths vary significantly, with class 2 felonies being the most harsh. First-time offenders may be behind bars for up to 12.5 years.
Aggravated Robbery – Robbery occurs when someone takes another person’s property from them against their will while using force. When this occurs with the aid of at least one other accomplice, it becomes aggravated robbery. This is a class 3 felony, for which first-time offenders can be incarcerated for up to 8.75 years.
Can the Juvenile Offenders Be Charged as Adults?
According to A.R.S. 13-501, juveniles can be charged as adults if they were at least 15 years old at the time of the crime and were accused of a violent or chronic felony offense. Minors who are 14 years old may also be charged as adults if they committed a class 1 or class 2 felony, or specific other dangerous or chronic felony offenses.
The juvenile court is able to file a motion to transfer such cases back to the juvenile court, however participation in a criminal street gang is one of the factors considered in the court’s ultimate decision, potentially making this fact pertinent to the Gilbert Goons case.
Arizona law prevents juveniles who are charged as adults from being sentenced to the death penalty, but they may still receive life imprisonment for eligible crimes.
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