Gang ‘enforcer’ sentenced to prison for 35 years
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter June 30, 2014 5:18PM
Updated: August 2, 2014 6:16AM
Back in 2008, Juan Amaya was doling out punishments — including ordering the hands of a teenage thief be smashed with a hammer.
As the “enforcer” of the Latin Kings’ 1,000-member strong Little Village crew, the 38-year-old made sure the gang’s brutal code of street justice was upheld.
But on Monday, it was Amaya’s turn to suffer.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer sentenced him to 35 years in prison for a series of racketeering, gun and drug convictions.
“It is just wrong,” Pallmeyer said of the gang leader’s reign of terror in the Kings’ Southwest Side stronghold.
Convicted of murder in the 1990s, Amaya rose quickly in the gang’s hierarchy following his release from state prison in 2005.
Evidence at his trial earlier this year showed that by 2008 he answered to just two other leaders — including the Kings’ national leader Augustin Zambrano, who has since been sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Amaya was caught on a wiretap ordering 17-year-old Rodolfo Salazar’s hands smashed after Salazar allegedly stole from the home of Zambrano’s girlfriend.
A cooperating witness who was in the room when Salazar was punished, testified during the trial that he heard the sounds of Salazar’s knuckles cracking as they were hit with the hammer.
At Monday’s hearing, Amaya apologized to his family. He said he “grew up in a . . . low income neighborhood,” but had been raised by his mother to “take responsibility for my actions like a man.”
He said, he was guilty only of selling drugs and should not be held accountable “for other people’s actions.” And his attorney Heather Winslow said a sentence of just 10 years was enough.
But prosecutor Andrew Porter said a 40 year sentence would “send a message to the next generation of children coming up in Little Village.”
“This isn’t Afghanistan — it’s the middle of this great city of ours,” Porter added. “Chicago is never going to reach the level it should as long as gangs like the Latin Kings are around.”
Pallmeyer agreed. “There are children who grew up in Little Village and parents in this community who are witnesses to the kinds of activities this organization traded in,” she said.
The hammer beating was “an awful thing” she added, saying Salazar was “maimed for the rest of his life.”