Photo by Gelmis Bartulis on Unsplash

Killers, Drug Dealers And Tax Cheats Among Trump’s Greatest Admirers

Phil Garber

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To the MAGA lemmings, your favorite law and order former president has welcomed into his orbit a former Hells Angel founder, two rappers accused of murder conspiracy, a former police superintendent convicted of tax fraud and other similarly unsavory characters.

This is the same law and order former president who once called for the death penalty against five youths who were charged in a rape in Central Park but were later exonerated. It is the same former president who referred to countries in Africa as “shit hole” countries. It is the same former president who said there were “fine people” among the racist, neo-Nazis who demonstrated at a rally that turned deadly in Charlottsville, Va., in 2017. It is the same former president who welcomed to his Florida mansion a leader of a white supremacist group.

For obvious reasons, these facts didn’t come up during trump’s campaign rally in Crotona Park in the South Bronx last week where he prostrated himself with his tough on crime act in an effort to win the support of Black and Latino voters.

A bevy of trump’s sycophants showed up in support at last week’s court session on charges that trump paid a sex worker to keep quiet and then claimed the costs were legitimate legal costs. Trump’s lawyers tried to woo the jury into believing that the ex-president is an upstanding family man. The image must have been a bit jarring as jurors saw the group in the audience that included Chuck Zito, 71, a very large and imposing man with a big, dyed-black pompadour, and huge, gaudy jewelry on very large hands. Zito founded the New York chapter of the outlaw motorcycle gang Hells Angels, and served six years in prison on drug conspiracy charges.

In the early 1980s, Zito helped found the New York Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, the infamous club that started in California. The Justice Department described the organization as a criminal enterprise and linked the New York chapter to the Gambino crime family.

A motorcycle enthusiast, Zito established the New Rochelle Motorcycle Club in 1974, which merged with the Bronx-based Ching-a-Ling Nomads in 1976. He served as a club “prospect” for the New York City Hells Angels and was voted in as a member in May 1979.

One requirement to be named as a full member of the Hells Angels’ New York City chapter was to kill or attempt to kill a target selected by the club as part of an initiation process. Zito allegedly earned his membership in the club when he planted a bomb under a car occupied by Robert Giangarra, a Queens pizzeria owner who had previously shot and injured Hells Angels biker Cortland “Chip” Candow in a Manhattan bar. The bomb exploded but Giangarra escaped serious injuries.

Zito was never charged with the bombing, but he was convicted of weapons possession after police discovered a loaded pistol, ammunition and brass knuckles in his car, criminal possession of a controlled substance (Quaaludes), and disorderly conduct

Zito said he had always looked up to the Hells Angels.

“I used to watch their movies like ‘Hells Angels on Wheels and ‘Hell’s Angels ’69' as a kid. They were the elite of the elite, the №1,” said Zito whose biker nickname was “Charming Chuck.”

On May 2, 1985, 133 Hells Angels members and associates were arrested on racketeering and drug trafficking charges after raids in 14 cities. A warrant was issued for Zito’s arrest on charges of selling 15.8 ounces (450 g) of methamphetamine in New York state in November 1984. Working as bodyguards for Bon Jovi on tour in Japan, Zito and fellow Hells Angels member Herbert Reynolds Kittel surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on July 22, 1985.

Zito pleaded guilty to one felony drug count and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. His sentence was reduced to seven years in 1988 and he ultimately served six years at 19 different federal prisons. He was released from prison in 1991.

Zito was questioned by police in 1994 over the shooting of a motorist who cut into a Hells Angels procession the day before the funeral of a biker who was killed during a war with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. On December 11, 1994, Zito and 20 other Hells Angels were arrested after a high-speed car chase in Chicago. The group had been attending a meeting to formally mark the club’s merger of the Hell’s Henchmen.

On February 23, 2002, Zito was at the Hellraiser Ball, a tattoo and motorcycle trade exposition in Plainview, N.Y., sponsored by the Long Island chapter of the Hells Angels. The expo was ambushed by dozens of members of the rival Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, resulting in one biker being killed and at least 10 injured.

In 2004, Zito left the Hells Angels after 25 years of membership in the club to focus on an acting career. He resigned from the club in “good standing,” an option reportedly extended only to the Hells Angels’ most respected members. In recent decades, Zito has created a new career as a stuntman and occasional actor, starring most prominently as Chucky “The Enforcer” Pancamo in the HBO prison drama “Oz.” After his Hells Angels days, he was a bodyguard to celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Sean Penn and Sylvester Stallone, to mention a few.

Zito once served as a boxing trainer for the actor Mickey Rourke, and when the mob boss John Gotti died of cancer in 2002, Zito was one of the few non-Mafia members to attend the wake at a funeral home in Queens.

Zito was raised in the Bronx and New Rochelle and was the son of a successful, professional welterweight boxer, who went by the ring name of Al LaBarba. Zito was an amateur boxer for several years before he hung up the gloves and climbed on his Harley hog, while working as a refrigerator mechanic and bouncer at Café Central on Manhattan’s upper west side.

Zito studied martial arts and earned black belts in six different disciplines, including jujutsu. He claims to have broken his nose nine times and his hands eight times.

Two other notorious observers at trump’s hush money trial were
Boris Epshtetyn and Bernard Kerik.

Epshteyn was a strategic advisor to trump during the 2016 and 2020 elections. He was a member of a team of trump lawyers who sought to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Epshteyn was indicted for his role in Arizona’s fake electors scheme on April 24, 2024.

In 2014, Epshteyn was charged with misdemeanor assault after an altercation at a bar. The charge was dropped after he agreed to undergo anger management counseling and perform community service. On October 10, 2021, Epshteyn was arrested at a night club. Epshteyn pleaded guilty to “disorderly conduct-disruptive behavior or fighting”, for which he served probation. He was also remanded to alcohol treatment.

Kerik, 68, is a consultant and was the 40th Commissioner of the New York Police Department from 2000 to 2001.

Kerik pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight federal charges for tax fraud and making false statements. In February 2010, he was sentenced to four years in federal prison, of which he served three years. In 2020, trump granted Kerik a full pardon for his federal convictions. After the 2020 election, Kerik supported trump’s claims of voter fraud and attempted to help overturn the election results.

Kerik was close friends with Lawrence V. “Larry” Ray, who was later accused of running a sex cult at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2022, Ray was convicted of extortion, forced prostitution and forced labor. Ray was the best man at Kerik’s wedding before the two had a falling out in 2000 when Ray cooperated with the prosecution against his former friend.

Trump brought on stage at his Bronx rally Brooklyn rappers “Sheff G” and “Sleepy Hallow,” both members of the notorious Crips gang, who were both indicted last year as part of an investigation into a vast murder conspiracy by two Brooklyn gangs.

Sheff G, 25, known as Michael Williams, was out on bail set last month at $150,000 cash or $1 million bond for conspiracy charges and multiple counts of murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the case covering 27 different acts of violence, including a dozen shootings.

His protege, Sleepy Hallow, whose legal name is Tegan Chambers, 24, was out on bail set at $200,000 cash or $150,000 bond for conspiracy charges.

Williams was released from prison last June after serving a sentence for criminal possession of a weapon He was one of five drill rappers who were removed from the local edition of the hip-hop festival “Rolling Loud” in 2019 at the request of Police Department officials, who cited safety concerns. Chambers was released from prison in February after serving nearly eight months for weapons possession.

“One thing I want to say. They always gonna whisper your accomplishments and shout your failures. Trump gonna shout the wins for all of us,” Sheff G said into the microphone alongside trump at the rally.

“Make America Great again,” said Chambers.

“I appreciate it. Thank you,” responded trump.

At one point, trump praised Sheff’s grills, the popular decorative covers for teeth that are often made of gold, silver or other metals. They also are referred to as “grillz” or “fronts” and can be removable or permanent.

“I like that,” trump said. “I wanna get that done.”

Moments later, the pair left the stage and trump launched back into campaign talking points.

“I’m thrilled to be back in the city I grew up in, the city I spent my life in, the city I helped build and the city that we all love,” trump said.

After the artists stepped off the stage, trump said he liked “those teeth. I wanna find out where you did — I gotta get my teeth like that. I want that to happen to me.”

Sheff posted the appearance on Instagram, and other popular rappers, including Fivio Foreign, G Herbo, 42 Dugg, Lola Brooke and more shared their reactions.

“We got Sheff, Sleepy and Trump,” read one comment with over 6,000 likes. Another person joked, “Bro [is] tryna get pardoned.” Elsewhere, another user stated, “Y’all do not understand; we are literally living inside of a ‘[The] Boondocks’ episode,” referring to the popular animated TV show.

Chambers and Williams were arrested in 2023 as part of a 32-person, 140-count gang indictment alleging murder, attempted murder, gun possession, and other crimes. The indictment attributes 12 shootings to the gangs, including the fatal October 2020 shooting of Theodore Senior, AKA Sniper Blixky, an alleged member of the Folk Nation Gangster Disciples and ally of Sheff G rival 22GZ.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzales said the men charged are members of the Eight Trey Crips and Nine Ways gangs, who collectively waged war on the Folk Nation Gangster Disciples and ICG Babiiez over a period starting in March 2019.

“What we allege and what we learned during the course of this investigation is that Sheff G used a lot of the money he earned to help facilitate further gang activity, encouraging gang members to participate in violent crimes,” said Gonzalez.

Sheff G is an RCA Records artist and founder of the Winners Circle label and crew, where Tegan and rapper Eli Fross are signed. He’s regarded as a pioneer of the Brooklyn drill scene, best known for his “No Suburban,” “We Gettin Money,” and “Weight On Me” singles, which have amassed hundreds of millions of streams on digital service providers and YouTube. “Drill” is a subgenre of hip hop music that originated in Chicago in the early 2010s. It is similar to the gangsta rap subgenre. Early drill artists are noted for their explicit, confrontational style of lyricism and association with crime in Chicago.

Investigators allege that Williams rewarded people who carried out shootings for him with jewelry, appearances in videos, and money.

Chambers, a platinum artist and close friend of Williams, is known for his “Deep End” and “2055” singles. Chambers is named a conspirator in the gang in part for being in a video in possession of a gun with codefendants, being present with codefendants when they had guns, and a social media post where he’s purportedly “throwing down” the Folk Nation hand gesture, which investigators perceive as a sign of disrespect.

In two instances, rap lyrics are mentioned in the indictment. Investigators recall Williams posting, “FOR GANG…FOR GANG SHIT !…out here playing for the members,” in March 2019. The lyrics are from his February 2018 “For The Members” song but were framed in the indictment as “a message about committing shooting on behalf of the Eight Trey Crips.”

In another instance they wrote in a January 2021 phone note, “All of them soft if you ask me / I was on a drill last week / He tried to run like a athlete / Shit got him shot on the ass cheeks.” The lyrics were entered a week after investigators alleged that Willliams shot a Folk Nation member in the buttocks.

Williams and Chambers were not the first Hip Hop artists that trump has welcomed on stage. In 2020, he invited Lil Pump to join him at a rally in Florida. In a separate incident, the former president met with Kodak Black after pardoning him in 2021.

Lil Pump, 23, whose real name is Gazzy Garcia, rose to prominence as part of the SoundCloud rap scene in the late 2010s. He gained mainstream attention following the release of his 2017 single “Gucci Gang”, which peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and preceded his self-titled debut studio album in October of that year.

On October 26, 2020, Garcia endorsed trump and made posts on social media wearing the Make America Great Again baseball cap. On November 2, trump brought Pump out to speak at his rally in Michigan, mistakenly calling him “Little Pimp.”

It was later revealed that Garcia was not a registered voter and that Garcia had deleted a tweet he wrote in 2016 saying “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” after it went viral on Twitter.

On February 15, 2018, Garcia was arrested for discharging a weapon in an inhabited place. On August 29, 2018, he was arrested for driving without a license in Miami. On September 3, the rapper announced that he would be going to jail for “a few months” for a parole violation stemming from the arrest.

On December 4, 2018, Garcia was arrested by Danish police after a performance in Copenhagen, for possessing marijuana. He later live streamed himself flipping his middle finger at a police officer while being detained and was subsequently banned from entering the country for two years.

On December 13, 2018, Garcia was arrested at a Miami airport for disorderly conduct as he was about to take off on a flight. In November 2021, the IRS filed a lien on his Miami home for unpaid taxes in the amount of $1.6 million.

Bill Kahan Kapri, 26, known professionally as Kodak Black, gained initial recognition following his 2014 song “No Flockin.”

Black’s legal troubles began in middle school and spiked throughout the late 2010s. He was accused of rape in 2016 and faced a charge of first-degree criminal sexual contact in South Carolina. He agreed to plead guilty to the lesser offense of assault and battery and was sentenced to probation. In 2019, Black was arrested for making false statements to possess weapons and was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. On January 19, 2021, trump commuted Black’s sentence.

Black was placed into a youth detention center three times in one year, and then placed on probation.

In October 2015, he was arrested in Florida and charged with robbery, battery, false imprisonment of a child, and possession of cannabis. He was later released. In April 2016, Black again was arrested in Florida and charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, possession of marijuana, and fleeing from officers.

The following month in May 2016, he was arrested in Florida and charged with armed robbery and false imprisonment.

In September 2016, Black pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor drug charges and was sentenced to four months in jail. He was credited for time spent in custody awaiting trial and was required to serve 120 days. He was also suspended from driving for one year.

Black was released from jail in Florida and was then transported to South Carolina to face rape charges. He was released from custody in South Carolina on December 1, 2016, after posting a $100,000 bond, but returned to court on February 8, 2017.

Black was arrested inside his Pembroke Pines, Fla., home in January 2018 on multiple charges stemming from an Instagram live-feed video showing him passing marijuana and a gun around a small child. After a plea bargain, he admitted to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of marijuana, and was sentenced to 364 days in prison with credit for time served.

On April 5, 2019, a concert promoter sued Black for more than $500,000 for failing to appear at his concerts.

While trying to re-enter the United States from Canada on April 17, 2019, Black was arrested after authorities found marijuana and a Glock in his car. He was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and unlawful possession of marijuana by authorities. As a result of the arrest, performances in Boston and Connecticut were canceled.

On March 11, 2020, Black pleaded guilty to firearms possession, a charge that was lodged after being detained at the Canadian-American border with a Glock.

Black still faced charges of criminal sexual assault in South Carolina. On April 28, 2021, Black took a plea deal in the alleged sexual assault case and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree assault and battery, and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

On July 15, 2022, Black’s vehicle was stopped by Florida Highway Patrol because the window tint appeared darker than the legal limit. Police detected a smell of marijuana and searched the vehicle, finding a bag with 31 oxycodone tablets and almost $75,000 in cash.

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