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Detroit street gang leader faces mandatory life sentence on murder, racketeering charges

The leader of Detroit’s “It’s Just Us” (IJU) street gang, Duane Peterson, was convicted by a federal jury Friday on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking, and murder. He now faces a mandatory life sentence.

The specific charges for which Peterson was convicted are “engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, and narcotics trafficking conspiracy involving over one kilogram of heroin,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan (USAO-EDMI).

The IJU gang, founded by Peterson and his brothers, operated from 2014 to 2019 by “engaging in violent acts — including murder and attempted murder — obstruction of justice, and witness intimidation. IJU also trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to Jackson, Flint, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio,” according to USAO-EDMI.

The seven other defendants in this case pleaded guilty, and only Peterson went to trial.

In May 2017, Peterson and his accomplices were paid $10,000 to kill handyman Christopher Marcilis. Marcilis also insulted the gang and a deceased member, giving the IJU gang further incentive to take the job, according to the Detroit News.

After encountering him at a local bar and lounge, Peterson and the others shot Marcilis. As Marcilis fled, he fell down, at which point Peterson shot him in the back of the head. Later, Peterson split the reward with an unidentified second gang member, according to the Detroit News.

“Duane Peterson was a violent, dangerous man who terrorized the Detroit area for years, trafficking drugs, committing murder, and participating in a number of non-fatal shootings. The actions of Peterson and his associates had a devastating effect on the safety of the community,” said James Tarasca, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office.

Peterson has been serving another sentence in state prison for possessing a firearm as a felon and for assault with the intention to commit murder. Before his latest conviction, Peterson’s earliest release date was May 6, 2042.

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