Jury selection beings in XXXTentacion murder trial after judge rules on gang expert testimony

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A gang expert was cross-examined Wednesday before jury selection began for the trial of three suspects charged in the fatal shooting of rapper XXXTentacion.

Jesse De La Cruz, a former gang leader and a convicted felon, was first initiated at 13 years old. He said he was a member of two street gangs and turned his life around in 1997 and earned a doctorate from California State University in 2014 on how gang members exert social control at their schools and communities.

The defense wants De La Cruz, now a renowned gang expert, to testify in the trials for the murder of Jahseh Onfroy, better known as rapper XXXTentacion, during an armed robbery on June 18, 2018, outside of RIVA Motorsports, a seller of motorcycles and watercraft in Deerfield Beach.

“The gangs you have in Florida, that are like the Crips or the Bloods, are originally from California, so they have the same characteristics, the same nuances, as the ones over there,” De La Cruz said during a hearing on Tuesday.

Broward Assistant State Attorney Alixandra Buckelew objected to the witness. Mauricio Padilla, a defense attorney in the case, said the prosecution can’t just get rid of the defense’s expert witness because they don’t like what he is going to say.

The judge ended up ruling that the expert would not be allowed.

Following a break for lunch, the pre-screening process for potential jurors began as the judge and attorneys prepared to put together the group that will eventually decide the fate of the three defendants.

Detectives arrested Trayvon Newsome, 24, Dedrick Williams, 26, Robert Allen, 26, and Michael Boatwright, 28, for the murder, but only Allen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is a witness in the case. The others are going to trial.

According to authorities, XXXTentacion had just left Riva Motorsports with a friend when his BMW was blocked by an SUV that swerved in front.

Two masked gunmen emerged, confronted the rapper at the driver’s window and one shot him.

They then grabbed a Louis Vuitton bag containing $50,000 cash the singer had just withdrawn from the bank, got back into the SUV and sped away.

XXXTentacion, 20, died at the hospital shortly after.

Boatwright is accused of firing the fatal shots.


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About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.