A Montgomery County judge has given prosecutors permission to bypass preliminary hearings for eight gang members.
That means their cases can go to trial faster. Assistant District Attorney John Gradel says the hearings would duplicate evidence already presented to a grand jury, and bypassing them will save the taxpayers a lot of money. The gang members are accused of using firebombings and assaults to build up street power for a Norristown area chapter of the “Bloods,” based in New York. The 23-year-old alleged ringleader, Augustus Simmons (pictured here) of Norristown, is charged with arson and attempted murder. He moved to the area from Brooklyn about a year ago. He and nine other people are charged in the incidents, including a Norristown fire last December that damaged ten row houses on Stanbridge Street and injured several people. In that incident a firebomb was thrown onto one home’s porch. Court documents say Simmons ordered gang members to firebomb the homes to intimidate possible witnesses who might testify against him.