Two men accused of being leaders in a Tacoma street gang pleaded guilty today to lesser charges.
Jamal Henry and Eugene Henderson initially faced charges in the vast conspiracy case against reputed members of the Hilltop Crips. When a judge ruled in May that Pierce County prosecutors could not pursue the widespread case, the two men were charged with leading organized crime.
Deputy prosecutor Greg Greer said the leading organized crime charge would have been difficult to prove given the evidence that had been collected.
“It’s too demanding in the sense of the elements versus the proof we have got,” Greer said. “This is a compromise to the extent that they didn’t have any other substantive crimes they were charged with.”
Henry, 27, pleaded guilty to first-degree possession of stolen property. In his statement, he wrote that he did not believe he was guilty of the crime but acknowledged the likelihood he’d be found guilty at trial.
“The court finds the defendant guilty as charged,” Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine Stolz said during the morning hearing.
Henry faces two years, nine months to three years, seven months in prison when he’s sentenced Aug. 19. His attorney, Catherine McDonald, asked Stolz to release Henry on his own recognizance until his sentencing.
“He does have a lot of things he needs to take care of” before his sentencing, McDonald said.
Stolz rejected the request and ordered Henry held in Pierce County Jail on no bail. She noted his prior criminal history in making her ruling.
Henderson, 35, pleaded guilty to first-degree trafficking stolen property and conspiracy to traffic in stolen property. He faced one year, one month to one year, five months in prison.
Greer asked for the high-end of the standard range, noting Henderson had been involved in the Crips, the city’s oldest street gang.
“The state firmly believes Mr. Henderson was seen as a leader” in the gang, Greer said. He added that leaders in the gang were not formal positions and not elected. Rather, those who attained that distinction did so through their intelligence, charisma and time in the gang.
“It is the hope that Mr. Henderson will learn from this experience and get out of the gang life,” Greer said during the hearing.
Henderson’s attorney, David Gehrke, argued for the low end. He noted that Henderson was viewed as a leader but not of criminal activity. Henderson, Gehrke said, had gotten out of the lifestyle, had a job and real home. The younger gang members looked up to Henderson because of what he had accomplished.
“He was still loyal to his old friends,” Gehrke said. “He got involved, got caught on camera.”
Henderson made a brief statement to the court.
“I am trying to move on, get back to my job and my family,” Henderson told Stolz.
Stolz imposed the high-end of the range and gave Henderson credit for the 141 days he’d already served in Pierce County Jail while awaiting trial. She noted that he appeared to have made attempts to move past his previous involvement in gangs.
“You have got to stay away from these friends because they are not real friends,” Stolz said.
Henderson told his girlfriend he loved her as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
“Good luck, Mr. Henderson,” Stolz said.