Top fed makes plea against new sen­tence for ex-Gang­ster Dis­ci­ples leader

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JON SEIDEL, STAFF RE­PORTER jsei­del@sun­times.com | @Sei­delCon­tent Con­tribut­ing: Frank Main

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.”

U.S. DISTRICT COURT, AT­LANTA

Gang­ster Dis­ci­ples leader Larry Hoover, cen­ter, with top gang lieu­tenant Gre­gory Shell, left, and gang as­so­ciate Keith McCain.

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