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Johnston gang member receives life sentence

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SMITHFIELD — James Robert Graham — a “validated member of the Rollin 60s Crips” gang — became the first offender to be labeled as a “violent habitual felon” in a Johnston County courtroom Aug. 30 when a jury convicted him of ordering a hit on an occupied home. It was his third violent felony conviction in 15 years.

As a result, Graham was sentenced to a life in prison without the possibility of parole under the state’s “three-strikes and you’re in” law.

Prosecutors say Graham ordered a fellow gang member to shoot up a home on Whitley Road outside Middlesex in the early morning hours of Sept. 16, 2017. People were asleep inside the home when the first shot rang out.

Graham was serving time at Warren Correctional Institute in Manson when prosecutors say Anthony Lewis, an ex-boyfriend of one of the home’s residents and fellow inmate, asked Graham to shoot up the house on Whitley Road.

N.C. Department of Public Safety phone investigators located a telephone call from Graham, a validated Crips member, directing fellow gang member Keith Parks to spray the house with gunfire, according to a release from the Johnston County District Attorney’s office.

Lewis and Parks previously pleaded guilty in the case and are serving prison sentences.

After the jury unanimously found Graham guilty of felony conspiracy, the district attorney’s office introduced proof of Graham’s status as a violent habitual felon, a person who commits a violent felony after being previously convicted of two violent felonies, the release states.

Graham was convicted in 2004 of robbery with a dangerous weapon in Mecklenburg County and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in Alexander County in 2008.

Superior Court Judge Keith Gregory presided over the trial, and Assistant District Attorneys Keith Gordon and Paul Jackson led the prosecution.

“We are grateful that justice was served in this case,” Gordon said. “We thank members of the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Public Safety for their expert investigation and outstanding security during the trial. The district attorney’s office is committed to fighting gang violence and keeping our community safe.”

Johnston County Sheriff’s Detective Randy Ackley investigated the 2017 shooting with help from the N.C. Department of Public Safety Special Operation and Intelligence Unit.