Federal Court in downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles federal courthouse. Photo by John Schreiber.

Two gang members are expected to plead guilty Thursday to federal civil rights and racketeering violations for firebombing the homes of black residents in the Boyle Heights area four years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendants’ Latino gang territory.

Josue “Malo” Garibay, 25, and Jose “Lil’ Moe” Saucedo, 24, are scheduled to enter their pleas in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who will set a sentencing date. The defendants face potential penalties of at least 30 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In the early morning hours of May 12, 2014, eight members of the Big Hazard 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 East Los Angeles gang members — five of whom have previously entered guilty pleas — 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, purported ringleader Carlos “Rider” Hernandez ordered his co-defendants to meet at a location in Hazard gang territory on May 11, 2014 — Mother’s Day — to prepare for the night’s attack. At the meeting, Hernandez allegedly distributed materials to be used during the firebombing, including disguises, gloves and other materials.

Hernandez 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 allege.

The indictment also alleges that Hernandez told the other defendants 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.

Hernandez faces trial in July.

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