Top fed makes plea against new sentence for ex-Gangster Disciples leader
Chicago’s top federal prosecutor made a rare plea to a judge Thursday, hoping to persuade him against a new sentence for Gangster Disciples co-founder Larry Hoover — a move most believe could return Hoover to the state prison system where he once led his gang.
U.S. Attorney John Lausch spoke at the end of a 40-minute telephonic hearing marred with technical difficulties. Though it was sometimes hard for U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber and the attorneys to hear each other, Lausch was clear: It would be a “miscarriage of justice to reduce [Hoover’s] sentence in any way, shape or form.”
“It simply makes no sense now to give him a chance to run the Gangster Disciples,” Lausch told Leinenweber.
Leinenweber ended Thursday’s hearing without making a decision, but at no point did he reject the idea of a ruling in Hoover’s favor.
Instead, the judge repeatedly asked a prosecutor and Hoover’s defense attorney to help him understand whether the Illinois Department of Corrections had improved since the days of Hoover. In short, the judge asked, “can the state handle Hoover?”
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections did not immediately comment when contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Walker said he spoke to IDOC officials, and he said “they do not want Mr. Hoover to return to an IDOC facility.”
Hoover ordered a murder in 1973 that led to his conviction in state court and a sentence of 150 to 200 years in Illinois’ prison system. There, the feds say he ran a $100 million-ayear drug business as tens of thousands of gang soldiers continued to work for him in Chicago and other cities.
A federal investigation then led to Hoover’s conviction for running a criminal enterprise. Leinenweber gave Hoover a life sentence in 1998 at the end of a hearing that prompted a finger-pointing confrontation between the two men. Leinenweber told Hoover the charisma he used to gain the loyalty of thousands was proof he could have been a great man.
“You misused a great gift that you received from God,” Leinenweber told Hoover that day.
If Hoover is released from federal prison, he would still have to serve his murder sentence with the Illinois Department of Corrections, which lists his parole date as April 2, 2064.
But Hoover’s attorneys have said it’d be better than the federal super-max prison in Florence, Colorado, where Hoover is being held. It also houses Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.
Hoover’s attorneys say he should get a new sentencing hearing under the First Step Act, a law that has already shortened the sentences of several federal defendants from Chicago. But prosecutors have said “it would be the ultimate case study in unforeseen consequences” were Hoover to get a break under that law.
Since the signing of that law by President Donald Trump, Leinenweber has repeatedly sided against prosecutors in granting sentence reductions. Still, the feds say the law gives the judge discretion, a point Leinenweber asked the lawyers to focus on Thursday.
Walker told the judge a sentence reduction for Hoover is “just about the last thing that the city of Chicago — or the nation — needs right now.”
But Hoover’s attorney told the judge Hoover is not the same man Leinenweber sentenced nearly a quarter-century ago. He’s 69 and has spent decades in “severe isolation.”
After the hearing, Hoover supporter and former Gangster Disciples enforcer Wallace “Gator” Bradley said by text message, “I’m asking everyone to pray that God touch [Leinenweber’s] heart and soul.”
Gangster Disciples leader Larry Hoover, center, with top gang lieutenant Gregory Shell, left, and gang associate Keith McCain.