LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Latino gang member faces a lengthy federal prison term today for planning and carrying out the firebombings of homes of black residents in the Boyle Heights area five years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendant's turf.
Jose “Lil' Moe” Saucedo, 25, pleaded guilty last year to four felonies that together carry a possible sentence of decades behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Prosecutors are asking that U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder impose a 15-year federal prison sentence.
Saucedo -- the first of the eight defendants to be sentenced -- admitted to conspiring to violate the civil rights of the black families, specifically the constitutional right to live in a residence free from “injury, intimidation and interference based on race.”
He also pleaded guilty to using explosives and fire to injure, intimidate and interfere with the residents because of their race and because they were living in the Ramona Gardens Housing Development. Saucedo further admitted to committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering on behalf of his gang.
In the early morning hours of May 12, 2014, eight members of the street gang, which claims Ramona Gardens as its territory, prepared Molotov cocktails, smashed the windows of four apartments and threw the lit firebombs into the units, according to court papers.
Three of the four targeted apartments were occupied by black families, including women and children, who were sleeping at the time of the unprovoked attacks.
Prosecutors said the gang members -- who have all pleaded guilty -- violated the civil rights of the families, specifically the constitutional right to live in a home free from “injury, intimidation and interference based on race.”
According to the indictment, ringleader Carlos “Rider” Hernandez ordered his co-defendants to meet at a location in his gang's so-called territory on May 11, 2014 -- Mother's Day -- to prepare for the night's attack. At the meeting, Hernandez distributed materials to be used during the firebombing, including disguises, gloves and other materials.
Hernandez -- who faces sentencing in October -- explained that the order for the racially motivated attack had come from the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang that controls the majority of Hispanic gangs in Southern California, prosecutors said.
The indictment also states that Hernandez told the others to break the victims' windows, allowing the Molotov cocktails to make a clean entry, ignite the firebombs and throw them into the victims' units in order to maximize damage. One of the victims, a mother sleeping on her couch with her infant child in her arms, narrowly missed being struck by one of the weapons.
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