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Defense for South LA gang leader takes aim at cooperating witnesses in closings

The jury gets the case Thursday morning.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A lawyer for Paul "Doc" Wallace, a South LA gang leader on trial on racketeering and murder charges, took aim at the credibility of the government's key cooperators by arguing they were coached by the prosecution to testify in exchange for a break in their own criminal cases.

"Every single one of them has been coached and rehearsed by the government," Amy Jacks said in her closing argument Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles. "Each one of them is looking for some leniency from the government."

Wallace, 56, a longtime member of the East Coast Crips, stands accused of racketeering conspiracy and of using a firearm as part of a murder. If convicted, he faces prison for life.

Three of the key witnesses for the government are East Coast Crips members who testified Wallace confessed to them while in custody that he committed the murders in 2003 and 2014 that the prosecution now is using to support their racketeering conspiracy charge. All three witnesses started cooperating against Wallace only after they faced lengthy prison sentences in unrelated cases, or had run out of options to get out from under a sentence, according to Jacks.

One of the cooperators, Derek "Too Cool" Banks, only began providing information against Wallace in 2019, after he faced prison for violating his supervised release by pimping a minor, Jacks said.

"The truth has no meaning for Mr. Banks," Jacks told the jurors. "What matters to him is getting what he wants."

The jury will start deliberating Thursday, tasked with deciding whether Wallace is guilty of engaging in murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion and witness tampering in support of the criminal activities of the East Coast Crips. They will also decide if he's guilty of the 2014 murder of Reginald Brown, a member of the rival Hoover gang, where the prosecutors say Wallace drove the shooter to Brown's house where he was shot outside.

One key piece of evidence in the Brown murder is the AK-47 used in the shooting, which was found the following year in a minivan Wallace had rented. During a February 2016 police interview, shortly after being arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm, Wallace volunteered that the AK-47 had been used in a murder although law enforcement didn't link it to the Brown shooting until 2018.

"He can't keep all his of lies straight," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Axelrad said in his closing argument earlier Wednesday, referring to Wallace's changing accounts of how the AK-47 ended up in the minivan.

According to Jacks, fingerprints lifted from the minivan confirmed Wallace's account that another gang member, "Infant Hood," had put it there.

Jacks also disputed testimony by the government cooperators that Wallace had wanted to kill Brown because he held the Hoovers gang responsible for a 1982 shooting that had left him partially paralyzed. In a recorded police interview, Wallace discusses the shooting and said it was the Swans, a Bloods gang, that had shot him.

Wallace's lawyer also threw doubt on the government's claim that Wallace engaged in witness tampering based on a phone call from jail in which he tells his cousin to be careful of "Too Cool" because he had confirmed he was an informer, Nowhere in the call does Wallace suggest that anything should be done with the cooperator, Jacks said.

Likewise, Jacks argued a phone call from jail with the proprietor of a marijuana dispensary undermines the government's claim that Wallace was extorting the business. In the call, the owner of dispensary — who had hired Wallace to provide security in the evenings — can be heard saying "come back soon, we miss you," among other pleasant exchanges.

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