Morrisania hit man gets life

A hit man hired by a Morrisania gang to rub out a rival gang member in 2002 has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, agents for two federal agencies announced on Jan. 17.

Antoine Stewart, otherwise known as “Damoo,” faces a mandatory minimum life sentence stemming from his conviction in February 2006, for the killing of William Ragland, a/k/a Illy-Rock, in the John Adams Houses on Tinton Avenue on July 11, 2002. A jury found Stewart guilty of murder in aid of racketeering, murder in aid of narcotics trafficking, and conspiracy to sell drugs, along with weapons charges.

“The conviction of Antoine Stewart for the murder of William Ragland demonstrates that federal investigators will use every available resource to end the violence and drug trade that plagues our public housing,” said Michael J. Garcia of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Southern District.

John P. Gilbride of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York City division said the conviction “shows that the DEA will go to all lengths to try to stop the violence surrounded by drug trafficking.”

Gamaliel Gonzalez and Kenneth Garner, leaders of the Westchester Crew, a crack-trafficking gang centered in the St. Mary’s Houses, were charged with hiring Stewart to kill Ragland. Another gang member, Derrick Johnson, helped deliver the gun used in the killing. Stewart shot Ragland four times at close range in the Adams Houses, then left on foot.

Prosecutors maintain Stewart was also a crack dealer at the time at the Murphy Consolidation housing complex, near Crotona Park. They say Gonzalez and Garner initially promised a down payment of $500 for Stewart to eliminate Ragland, then later paid him an additional amount in heroin.

All of the 13 charged members of the Westchester Avenue Crew have pleaded guilty to charges that include racketeering, narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. Garner and Johnson also pleaded guilty to the murder of Ragland, but Gonzalez did not live to see his sentencing. He was shot dead in October, 2002, three months after William Ragland’s murder. Several members of the Westchester Avenue Crew have since been convicted of Gonzalez’s murder.

REDRUM, an investigative task force comprised of federal agents and NYPD detectives and New York State troopers, collaborated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the bust, the latest in a series of federal and local stings to bust up drug gangs in and around Mott Haven.