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South LA gang leader-turned-peacekeeper sentenced to 35 years for role in 2014 murder

Wallace is said to have played in instrumental role in ending a 20-year gang war between two rival gangs

(CN) — A judge sentenced South Los Angeles gang leader-turned-peacemaker Paul "Lil Doc" Wallace to 35 years in federal prison for his role in a 2014 murder.

The government has called Wallace the "boss of bosses," a senior leader for roughly 30 years of the East Coast Crips, a "violent street gang that claimed a large portion of South Los Angeles." In April, a federal jury in Downtown LA found Wallace guilty of murder and racketeering, while clearing him of a different murder in 2003.

Wallace was known in the community for playing a key role in brokering a truce between the East Coast Crips and Florencia 13, a neighboring Latino street gang, after a 20-year war. His defense team cited "his important gang peacekeeping efforts," as well as the fact that Wallace has been shot three different times (with a total of nine bullets), in asking for a mitigated sentence.

"I'm not here to talk about who Paul was before," Skipp Townsend, a well-known gang expert and gang interventionist, told the court on Friday. "I saw him do God's work."

But prosecutors who asked that Wallace be given a life sentence, pointed out that Wallace had made the same argument in 2018 before being sentenced for a gun charge. Then, he claimed he was " trying to lead the youth down a right path and teaching the youngsters to take care of their kids, mothers turn from drugs, you know, just leave the gang life alone.”

In their sentencing memo, prosecutors called these earlier claims of reformation "lip-service," and wrote that Wallace had "spent a great deal of his time in custody before sentencing in 2018 managing the affairs of the East Coast Crips, orchestrating extortion, and facilitating witness intimidation against perceived cooperating witnesses."

"Are you saying the efforts to make peace didn't exist?" Judge Andre Birotte (who also sentenced Wallace in 2018) asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Chemerinsky.

Chemerinsky said they did exist, but believed that Wallace was still capable of "horrible acts in the future." He said that Wallace had been implicated — although not charged — in a jailhouse stabbing in May 2021.

"Arguments that he's been reformed are negated by the stabbing," said Chemerinsky.

Wallace was convicted of murder for his role in the killing of Reginald Brown, a member of the the Hoovers, a rival gang. Wallace was said to have driven the shooter to Brown's home in his White Escalade; the AK-47 used in the killing was later found in a minivan being rented by Wallace. The government's case rested on the testimony of three cooperating witnesses, all East Coast Crips members who said that Wallace had bragged about the murder while in custody with them.

Brown's surviving wife, daughter and brother all spoke in support of giving Wallace a life sentence.

Judge Birotte appeared torn on how severe a sentence to hand down.

"These kinds of cases are challenging," he said. "It seems as if Mr. Wallace was trying to do something different." But, the judge added, "the "long trail of destruction" left behind by Wallace "caught up to him in the end."

"I'm not of the view that a life sentence is appropriate, but a significant sentence is," Birotte said. He sentenced Wallace to 25 years in federal prison for the murder, in addition to the mandatory minimum 10 years for the racketeering charge. Upon his release, he will have to serve 5 years probation.

About two dozen people showed up in court to support Wallace, including his wife, two daughters and various community members. After the sentencing, one of them said, "Anything is better than life."

Janine Webster, who was married to Reginald Brown, had a different reaction.

"It wasn't what I wanted," she said.

Before the sentencing, Wallace's lawyers asked the judge for a new trial.

"This is a case based on circumstantial evidence," said his attorney Amy Jacks. That evidence, she said, was insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The judge denied the motion, saying, "I'm not inclined to take away the jury's verdict. It will be left up to the Ninth Circuit to decide," referring to the court of appeals. Later in the hearing, Jacks said that Wallace would be appealing the verdict.

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