Former Black Disciples ‘king’ Thompson has federal sentence cut
A federal judge in Chicago cut the former king of the Black Disciples’ 45-year drug-conspiracy sentence by a third Tuesday but wouldn’t free Marvel Thompson.
U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo reduced the sentence of the ex-leader of one of Chicago’s biggest street gangs to 30 years after he filed an appeal under the federal First Step Act and apologized for his crimes.
Bucklo, who had sentenced Thompson in 2007, said in her ruling Tuesday that he appears to have led a productive life in prison and said that figured into her decision.
But Bucklo wrote that she still needed to “promote respect for the law, impose just punishment and provide adequate deterrence.”
She said “these interests would not be served” by slashing his sentence further and releasing him, as he wanted.
In a letter to Bucklo, Thompson, 52, had said he was sorry for his “illegal misdeeds” and the Robin Hood persona he took on in Englewood, the South Side neighborhood where he told the judge he’d paid rent for poor parents and bought clothes and school supplies for their children.
He acknowledged, “You cannot simultaneously build up and destroy that which you purport to love.
“I embarked on a path of illegal misdeeds that would eventually completely destroy not only my life, but the lives of every person I ever loved or cared about, including those in my community I most identified [with] based upon our common experience of living poor,” he wrote.
Bucklo said she wasn’t sure “the awakening Mr. Thompson describes in his letter is genuine, as he continued to deny his leadership role in the conspiracy as recently as 2015.”
Prosecutors had opposed Thompson’s
effort to get his sentence cut or be released, writing that he “led one of the largest and most violent gangs in the city. Gang activity and the gang lifestyle he championed continues to plague the communities he victimized.”
Three of Thompson’s co-defendants have already been freed under the 2018 First Step Act. And another top Black Disciples leader, Donnell Jehan, 52, got his 25-year sentence reduced to 20 years. He’s now set to be released in 2025.
The First Step Act allows prisoners to seek reductions in their sentences based on changes in federal drug laws that were enacted in 2010, reducing the federal penalties for selling crack cocaine.
Thompson, who’s being held at a federal prison in Pekin, is among the most notorious of hundreds of Chicago criminals looking for a break under the First Step Act. Others convicted of federal drug crimes in Chicago who have filed similar appeals include Gangster Disciples leader Larry Hoover, whose request for a sentence reduction is pending.
President Donald Trump signed the First Step legislation, which had bipartisan support, after he was lobbied by the American Civil Liberties Union and Kanye West.
Prosecutors have routinely fought early release requests made under the First Step Act, but federal judges in Chicago have approved more than 60% of the requests they have ruled on under that law, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.
Thompson became king of the Black Disciples in the 1990s, succeeding imprisoned Jerome “Shorty” Freeman, according to prosecutors. They said Thompson laundered proceeds from illegal drug sales through more than a dozen properties and used the buildings in a mortgage-fraud scheme even as he gave his time and money to community groups.