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Judge gives former Latin Kings leader 40 year prison sentence

9-24-08 USA for Northern District Patrick Fitzgerald announces charges against 40 LatKing leaders.....these men are wanted... Vicente Garcia. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

9-24-08 USA for the Northern District Patrick Fitzgerald announces charges against 40 Latin King leaders.....these men are wanted... Vicente Garcia. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:45AM

He ruled over 10,000 young “soldiers” in one of the nation’s largest and most feared street gangs, ordering killings with blithe indifference.

“Well, smoke him,” Vicente Garcia shrugged in ordering the death of one rival — one of dozens of shootings he allegedly oversaw.

Now the former day-to-day leader of the Latin Kings faces four decades behind bars, condemned by a federal judge for running a “barbaric organization” that is almost unimaginably “cruel and insensitive to other human beings.”

Coming just days after Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared to again question the commitment of the U.S. attorney’s office in the fight against gangs and guns, the 40-year sentence Garcia was handed Friday is a timely reminder, federal prosecutors said, of their long battle to make Chicago’s streets safer.

“These are the kind of cases that we’re very good at on the federal level,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Porter after a tearful Garcia became the 25th of 28 Latin Kings to be sentenced in the major racketeering case. “We had a serious impact on this organization.”

Garcia, 35, was the Kings’ “Supreme Regional Inca” at the time of his 2008 arrest, answerable only to the “Corona,” Augustin Zambrano, who was sentenced to 60 years in 2011. In effect, Garcia managed the gang, ordering murders, drug deals, shakedowns and beatings, presiding in a “reign of terror” over the Little Village neighborhood, prosecutors told Judge Charles Norgle.

The Kings’ chilling standing orders — calling for five rival gang members to be murdered in retribution for every Latin King death — were detailed in court papers, as were the by-laws Garcia wrote for the Little Village chapter of the gang.

His rules required underlings to carry guns at all times, and to shoot on sight any rivals who entered their turf. Enforcers patrolled the neighborhood overnight from Thursday to Sunday night to ensure that “soldiers” guarded their blocks and had ready access to firearms.

Underlings who broke the rules suffered severe beatings, including the leader of the Cicero faction of the Latin Kings, Nedal Issa, who was punished for not shooting a rival fast enough.

Though just 20 shootings Garcia allegedly had a hand in were detailed in court, prosecutor Nancy DePodesta noted that it was “common sense” that the Kings were involved in the lion’s share of the 247 murders in Little Village between 2000 and 2007.

Children as young as 12 were given guns under Garcia’s watch, she said, urging Norgle to impose a 60-year sentence and “send a message to the people of the Little Village community that this court will do what it can to protect them.”

But defending Garcia, attorneys Gal Pissetzky and Joe “The Shark” Lopez stressed Garcia’s remorse, the job he held down as a UPS supervisor while running the gang and his desire to make amends. They urged a sentence of 30-40 years.

Garcia himself sobbed while addressing the court, saying he had a “broken heart and a broken spirit” and apologized “to the communities that have been affected by gang violence” and “to those people who lost family members and loved ones through my actions.”

The father of four, who was supported in court by his mother, his fiancee, his brother and more than two dozen other supporters, added, “My parents didn’t raise us to take the route I took.”

Under sentencing guidelines, he will have to serve at least 34 years, meaning he will likely be 65 when he gets out.

Friday’s hearing came just a week after Emanuel argued that whoever gets appointed U.S. attorney needs to get involved in the war against Chicago’s increasingly fractionalized street gangs.

“I expect when we get a new U.S. attorney that the U.S. attorney’s office would turn their attention to gun activity, gun violence and gang activity,” the mayor said, echoing a case he first made in May, and which former Mayor Richard M. Daley often relied upon, especially when his administration was mired in corruption probes.

“They have to put their oar in the water to back up what our Police Department is doing, our state’s attorneys are doing, what our pastors are doing, our after-school activities are doing,” Emanuel said. “You can’t take any piece of law enforcement or any piece of community development off the playing field.”

But the feds got a backhanded backing against that implied criticism from an unlikely source — Garcia’s attorneys.

“There have been gangs in this city since the turn of the 20th century,” Lopez said. Speaking after Friday’s hearing at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, he added, “They’ve been locking up drug dealers and gangbangers here by the hundreds for decades.

“Nothing they do in this building is going to stop the problem of gangs on Chicago’s streets.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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