posttrib
SPARKLE 
Weather Updates

Latin Kings member gets 30 years in plea deal

Updated: February 11, 2013 7:29AM



A Chicago man accused in the killings of rival gang members outside a Griffith restaurant in February 2007 will serve 30 years in prison after a federal judge agreed Wednesday to go below the recommended life sentence.

Brandon Clay pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to racketeer as a member of the Latin Kings. Although Clay did not plead guilty to any murder counts, he did say in his plea that he was responsible for the murder of at least two people.

Clay and several other defendants were charged with murdering James Walsh and Gonzalo Diaz, leaders of the rival Latin Dragons, outside the former Sopranos restaurant in 2007 in Griffith. Those and other gun and drug charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Federal sentencing guidelines still called for Clay to serve life in prison, however, because of his extensive criminal history and several factors included in the racketeering case. However, U.S. District Judge Lozano said he would grant the request by both Clay and federal attorneys for 30 years, despite concerns about Clay’s criminal past.

“There’s no way I can sugarcoat what you’ve done in the past, but 30 years is still very significant,” Lozano said.

Clay’s attorney, Clark Holesinger, argued during the hearing that Clay’s agreement with the government helped bring another defendant, Jason Ortiz, who was also charged in the Sopranos killings to also decide to plead guilty. He also said that Clay joined the Latin Kings at an early age and didn’t have much of an option to leave.

“If you’re in the Latin Kings, you don’t get out, not without consequences,” he said after the hearing.

Federal attorneys argued in a sentencing memorandum that although Clay did take part in a “cold-blooded murder,” he was mostly a lowly street soldier and wasn’t in a position of authority in the gang during the worst of his acts.

Joseph Cooley, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said during the hearing that a trial with Clay or Ortiz likely would have lasted four to six weeks.

Holesinger said after the hearing that the sentence was “appropriate.”



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.