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Saturday, 26 March 2011

leader of the MS-13 gang in Washington was sentenced to life in prison plus 150 years

00:03 |

leader of the MS-13 gang in Washington was sentenced to life in prison plus 150 years on Thursday, a sentence the judge said he hoped would deter gang violence.

William Cordova, 26, was convicted in December along with two other gang leaders in the 2007 murder of 18-year-old Edwin Ventura, a rival gang member. During an eight-week trial prosecutors introduced evidence showing that Cordova had terrorized a family he was living with, threatening to kill them and ultimately shooting one family member in the head. The woman survived but is now blind. In another incident in 2006, along with other MS-13 members, he opened fire on a car he believed contained rival gang members in Alexandria, Va.

MS-13 is a notoriously violent street gang that originated from El Salvador, Cordova's home country. The case was the first time prosecutors in the region used racketeering laws against MS-13 members because the gang is relatively new to the D.C. area. Using racketeering laws allowed prosecutors to get enhanced penalties.

Cordova, speaking in Spanish, told a judge he was innocent and not involved in organized crime during Thursday's hearing. But Judge Richard J. Leon said it was part of Cordova's gang code to maintain his innocence. The judge told Cordova he was lucky the government had not sought the death penalty in his case.

Leon was required by law to sentence Cordova to life in prison plus 110 years but said Cordova had "wreaked more than enough havoc for a lifetime" and would have been given that much time anyway. Making sense of the punishments for all of Cordova's crimes required a scorecard, Leon said.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, whose office prosecuted the case, called Cordova's actions and those of his confederates "despicable."

"We're going to be very, very aggressive in going after these gangs," he said in a telephone interview.

Before Cordova was sentenced, Ventura's mother told the judge he was a "good kid." His girlfriend cried as she said that in order for their daughter to feel close to him they have to visit the cemetery.

Two other gang leaders convicted by a jury in the case, Jose Gutierrez and Melvin Sorto, will be sentenced in April.

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