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Friday, 17 June 2011

Life plus 135 years prison sentence for Krazy Locos gang leader

08:17 |

Rolando Franco and Jonathan Gonzalez were best friends. Franco kept a picture of Gonzalez in his bedroom. He treasured a letter Gonzalez wrote, describing how they would grow old together.

However, when Franco, 22, decided to leave the violent Krazy Locos gang and build a new life, Gonzalez didn't let personal feelings stand in his way: He ordered Franco's execution.

It was all in a day's work for the ruthless gang leader, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

From his house in a quiet neighborhood west of Lantana, Gonzalez sold high-powered weapons and hand grenades. He dealt drugs. He ordered shootings and two murders.

For all of his misdeeds, exacerbated by his habit of enlisting juveniles and broken-family members to do his bidding, Gonzalez, 23, will spend the rest of his life behind bars, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled.

In an emotional hearing in which loved ones of Gonzalez's victims decried his "evil soul," Marra made sure Gonzalez will never again be free. He sentenced him to life plus 135 years - 50 more years than prosecutors recommended.

Marra also meted out harsh sentences for Gonzalez's two brothers, as their mother looked on, crying softly.

The three brothers were among six gang members Marra sentenced during hearings that took most of the day.

Two others already have been sentenced in connection with the gang's two-year reign of violence but next month will ask Marra for concessions.

Marra said his challenge was making sure each was sentenced fairly, given their varying roles, their ages and their mental abilities.

He rejected arguments that Gonzalez's older brother, Christopher Gonzalez-Chamberlain, 24, who has Asperger's syndrome, and his younger brother, Ivan Isidro Santiago, 20, deserved mercy because of either their developmental disorder or youth. Marra said he heard no evidence that Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism characterized by antisocial behavior, diminishes the ability to distinguish right from wrong.

"Someone not only got shot by him, but someone died," Marra said of Gonzalez-Chamberlain's role in the February 2009 murder of Daniel Rivera, 36, and the wounding of Rivera's brother, Angel, then 31.

He sentenced Gonzalez-Chamberlain to 15 years in prison for participating in the suburban Lake Worth shootings that Gonzalez ordered, mistakenly believing the Riveras were members of a rival gang.

Santiago will serve 30 years for being Gonzalez's able assistant, training other gang members, providing guns and helping in the illegal gun sales.

Later, when asked to reduce the life sentence he already imposed on Manuel Medina, Marra said he couldn't give him the same sentence as Santiago, who directed him to kill.

After all, Marra pointed out, Medina shot Franco in the face in January 2009. Then, he shot and killed Daniel Rivera after Gonzalez-Chamberlain shot Rivera's brother.

Even though he was only 17, he could have said no, Marra said, imposing a 35-year sentence.

Alejandro Tomas, who was 16 when he drove the getaway car in the Rivera shooting, was sentenced to 19 years. Itzel Candela-Campos, 21, will spend 40 months - just over three years - in prison for trying to help her boyfriend, Santiago, thwart the investigation.

Prosecutor Marie Villafana called the case the most difficult of her 10-year career.

It began as an investigation into a man accused of turning young immigrant girls into prostitutes. It led to the Krazy Locos gang, which provided protection at the brothels.

Ultimately, guns that were sold by Gonzalez were linked to the unsolved murders of Rivera and Franco.

Villafana recalled how Franco's mother told her she thought her son's murderer would never be brought to justice because she and her family were poor immigrants.

She described how Gonzalez turned neighborhoods into war zones where people were afraid in their own homes. She talked about how he preyed on youth, getting them to carry out his heinous crimes.

"I've heard that if you live like a thug, you have to be willing to die like a thug," she said. "Jonathan Gonzalez chose the thug's life for all of them - his neighbors, his victims and their families. He chose the thug's life for his brothers as well."


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