A federal judge today sentenced Ernest "Yo Pesci" Johnson to 7 1/2 years in federal custody for his role in a violent pill-pushing drug ring on the North Shore - many of whose exploits he boasted of on his YouTube channel, which remains up, although the latest videos are by his supporters on World Star Boston.
Johnson was a member of a North Shore drug ring headed by Vincent "Fatz" Caruso, of Lynn, and Caruso's mom, Laurie, which pressed tens of thousands of fentanyl pills, which they passed off as Percocets and spread their money around on diamond-encrusted watches and forays to a New Hampshire casino. The three, plus an alleged courier, were rounded up in 2021 as part of an FBI operation dubbed "Operation Street Sweepah," which also netted a pair of champagne-swilling crack dealers in love.
The US Attorney's office argued Johnson should get at least ten years for his guilty plea, both because of his exploits with guns - so, so many guns - and violence and his past, which includes both convictions and warrants here and in Georgia and his unrepentant past life behind bars, where he would often store up urine with which to douse prison guards, sometimes by filling a plastic bag that he would leave on the ground and then stomp on to spray a guard. In a sentencing memorandum, an assistant US Attorney wrote:
The Defendant brazenly possessed numerous firearms while prohibited due to numerous prior felony convictions. He possessed firearms in videos on Facebook. He possessed firearms in videos on Instagram. He possessed firearms in connection with threats to rival drug dealers. He possessed the firearms in hotel rooms, and in drug stashes. The firearms included a fully automatic Glock 17, an AR-style rifle, multiple large caliber revolvers, and a number of pistols, equipped with large-capacity magazines. This Defendant exemplifies the individual who should be prohibited from possessing firearms and must be severely punished for doing so.
And let's not forget his YouTube videos, the memorandum continues:
The Defendant played a rather unique role as something of an internet spokesman for the DTO [drug-trafficking organization] and its activities. He live-streamed videos that threatened rival drug dealers, accused people of being informants for law enforcement, showcased the DTO's arsenal of firearms and large-capacity magazines, and promoted the DTO's reputation for violence and gunplay. In short, after trading in death and misery, the Defendant would then take to the internet to brag about his exploits and explain his willingness to commit violence against rivals of the DTO.
Underneath the veneer of comedy and entertainment and the gratuitous use of the word "allegedly," the Defendant's videos did not leave much to the imagination. The "Yo Pesci" show was not merely entertainment. In these "Yo Pesci" livestreams, the Defendant can be seen discussing his crimes, handling firearms, flipping them in the air to emphasize his threats, and referring to large-capacity magazines and machineguns that the DTO had in their possession. For example, in a single night the Defendant threatened rival drug dealers, discussed a violent confrontation at a local strip club, and displayed large amounts of cash. In truth, they were brazen online narrations of actual violence, firearms, drug dealing, and threats that the Caruso DTO put in motion on the street.
Johnson's attorney called for a sentence of just five years, in part because Johnson did not have anywhere near as large a role in the operation as Caruso, who got 21 years, or his mother, who got 9. But also, he argued, the government failed to prove that all the guns prosecutors said Johnson owned he really had control over - or that all of the guns were real and not replicas.