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1 gang member convicted in federal trial

Men accused of series of violent robberies, home invasions

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photos of Maynard Godwin and Eric Ellis
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photos of Maynard Godwin and Eric Ellis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The federal racketeering trial of Maynard Godwin and Eric Ellis has produced one verdict from the double jury.

Ellis was convicted in connection with a series of robberies and home invasions.

Prosecutors said they were the leaders of the gang called "The Guardians," which also sold drugs in northeast Florida.

The jury weighing the evidence against Godwin had to start all over Thursday morning.

One juror was dismissed because he was overhead telling other members he was going to go online to find out more about racketeering, which the judge had instructed them not to.

Godwin, Ellis and other members of the gang were charged in a home invasion at a Beauclerc home in November 2009 in which investigators said they tied up an elderly couple and stole lots of cash, jewelry and a Lexus.

"He said, 'Come back and open the door or I'm going to blow his head off,'" the wife said at the time of what one of the men told her.

The gang members are also accused of a home invasion at a Palm Valley home in June 2009.

Lita Hart testified during the trial that she was in that home alone that night when two masked men broke into her home and pointed what she thought were machine guns at her.

She told the court the men made her open a safe before tying her up and making off with $300,000, $750,000 worth of jewelry and much more.

Hart told the court she was terrified she would be raped or killed.

In November 2010, the FBI raided Godwin's Arlington home.

At the time, investigators said Godwin sold an informant an ounce of cocaine in the home. A few months later, investigators said the raid was part of a major crackdown on the gang, saying it was responsible for four separate home invasions in Duval and St. Johns counties.

Investigators had issued an indictment against six men. Four of those men pleaded out.

They face penalties ranging from 20 years to life in federal prison.