Elgin James, the founding member of the FSU hardcore movement that was the subject of an article titled “Punk Rock Fight Club” in Rolling Stone, was arrested last week and charged with attempted extortion of a Chicago-area recording artist, the Chicago Tribune reports. James was the focus of contributing editor Mark Binelli’s 2007 article inside the FSU, which has branches and members all over the country and in the past has been accused of using violence as a means of controlling the punk scene. As Binelli wrote in “Punk Rock Fight Club,” members of FSU — which stands for Friends Stand United, or “Fuck Shit Up” — have been charged with everything from murder to robbery and now, extortion.
According to federal authorities, a member of a band that was aligned with FSU had a confrontation with a member of another band — later identified as the Chicago punk group Mest — while on tour in 2005. Then in October 2005, when Mest played Boston (where FSU was founded) the unnamed bandmember was attacked by six men, forcing the group to cancel its show at night. The FBI say that a month after the attacks, James contacted the Mest member, saying he could avoid further trouble if he made a $5,000 “donation” to the FSU.
A month later, the band member was attacked again in Orlando, Florida, and James allegedly called the victim after the attack and “asked how the victim’s trip to Florida was going when the victim had never told James that the victim would be traveling in Florida,” reads an FBI press release. “After the victim told James that the victim would not be paying the $5,000, James allegedly ended the call sarcastically, which the victim understood to mean that further attacks would ensue.” After that incident, the victim got the FBI involved, and later tape recorded phone calls with James. After yet another attack, the victim scheduled a February 26, 2006 meeting with James to give FSU the $5,000 donation while the FBI had surveillance on the encounter.
The arrest, which comes over three years after the alleged extortion, arrives at a time when James is segueing out of the hardcore scene and into the cinema crowd: just three weeks ago James’ recent film work was featured as part of Sundance Lab’s Screenwriting Workshop. Previously, James made his directorial debut with the short film Goodnight Moon, which featured Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, a member of the Chicago’s hardcore punk scene and, as Binelli wrote in 2007, an employer of FSU members as security guards. In Binelli’s article, James talked about his desire to leave FSU behind, especially considering the group’s legacy of violence. Two years later — and three years after the alleged extortion — it seems like James’ past may have finally caught up to him. According to the FBI release, “If convicted, attempted extortion carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”