A gang member was sentenced Monday to a dozen years in federal prison for firebombing the homes of black residents in the Boyle Heights area five years ago in an effort to drive the apartment dwellers out of the neighborhood.
Josue “Malo” Garibay, 26, of Boyle Heights was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison term.
Garibay — the fifth of eight defendants to be sentenced in the case — admitted in his plea agreement that the gang targeted apartments in the Ramona Gardens complex because of the occupants’ race and color with the intent to force the victims to move away from the federally funded housing project.
The racially motivated, nighttime attacks occurred on Mother’s Day 2014, targeting homes containing sleeping babies and elderly people, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder said, adding a sentencing enhancement for “vulnerable victims.”
Garibay pleaded guilty last year to four felonies, admitting that he conspired 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. He also pleaded guilty to committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering on behalf of his gang.
In addition, Garibay pleaded guilty to a charge of using fire to commit a federal felony, a count carrying a mandatory 10-year prison term.
Garibay’s attorney, Jay Lichtman, told the court that his client “didn’t break any windows, didn’t light any firebombs. He was just there.”
But Snyder — who has handled hearings for all eight defendants — disagreed, saying that Garibay had filled some of the bottles used in the attacks with gasoline. The defendant, the judge said, “was fully involved” in the crime.
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.
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 — all of whom pleaded guilty – – violated the civil rights of the families, specifically the constitutional right to live in a home free from racial intimidation.
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 — told the attendees at the meeting 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 stated 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.
Previously, Edwin “Boogie” Felix, 27, was sentenced to 92 months in federal prison and co-ringleader Jose “Lil’ Moe” Saucedo, 25, was sentenced to nine years behind bars for planning and carrying out the firebombings. Jonathan “Pelon” Portillo, 24, of Los Angeles was sentenced to 63 months, and a fourth defendant was sentenced last month, but records regarding his case have been sealed by the court.
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