The leader of a notorious north side gang known as the Beat Down Posse is now going on trial as prosecutors try to prove Joe Gustafson Sr. and his son were running a criminal enterprise involving guns, drugs and violence.
Federal prosecutors passed on the case a couple of times in the past, but now, state prosecutors are pursuing it, claiming Gustafson and his son terrorized north Minneapolis for nearly 20 years.
As the father was the first to go to trial on Friday, the defense strategy was clear: Blame the son.
The Gustafson clan wasn't happy seeing the FOX 9 Investigators at the courthouse as prosecutors described the family patriarch as the CEO of a criminal organization known as the Beat Down Posse, calling Joe Gustafson Jr. his right-hand man.
Gustafson Sr. is charged with criminal racketeering and is accused of ordering arsons, kidnappings and assaults of drug dealers and snitches.
Witnesses in the case include former members of the Beat Down Posse turned informants, but defense attorney Barry Voss described them as a "creep" show.
"These witnesses are lying to get out of these cases," Voss said. "No one can put Joe Gustafson at these crimes."
The defense signaled its plan involves blaming the crimes on Joe Gustafson Jr., claiming the son was only trading on his father's reputation as a former Hell's Angel and using his family's bail bond business as a front for criminal activity while Gustafson Sr. stayed barricaded in his north Minneapolis home to grieve another son's suicide while medicating himself on marijuana.
Police say it took more than 20 years to break the code of silence surrounding the Beat Down Posse, and the trial is expected to take at least two weeks now that Gustafson has turned down a last-minute plea deal of 14 years in prison.
"I don't want no deal," Gustafson Sr. told the judge.
Joe Gustafson Jr. is also in custody and is expected to go on trial sometime in the spring.