ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers look at a large painting confiscated from a raided home of alleged Avenues gang member is on display at a press conference to announce the massive early-morning raid by hundreds of police officers and federal law enforcement agents against the notorious gang, in Los Angeles, CA on September 22, 2009.
Rudy Aguirre Jr. was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Monday after admitting to taking part in two murders in Northeast L.A.
Aguirre was arrested during a massive crackdown in 2009 on the Avenues gang, which prosecutors say terrorized the Glassell Park and Cypress Park neighborhoods for decades. The raid followed the murder of Juan Escalante, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. Aguirre did not take part in that murder, but was caught in the wiretap and surveillance operation that followed the killing.
Prosecutors said Aguirre was a leader in the Avenues, and also admitted to being a go-between, funneling messages between members of the Avenues and Mexican Mafia leaders locked up in Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California. In 1999, he shot and killed a rival gang member. In 2008, he authorized the murder of a fellow gang member suspected of skimming money off "taxes" he collected for the gang.
"Justice was served, most importantly, for the victims of those families," prosecuting attorney Nicholas Trutanich said outside the courthouse.
Aguirre's attorneys, who declined to speak to the media, argued for a lesser sentence, citing Aguirre's decision to change his ways since being arrested.
Federal District Judge George Wu, however, opted for the full penalty.
"I'm not trying to paint anyone as a monster," Wu said. "But he admitted to two murders."
Aguirre's family members filled the audience of the federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles and were allowed to say their goodbyes to Aguirre individually as he stood, handcuffed, in the first row of seats. The judge denied Aguirre's request to be allowed to hug family members — a practice generally avoided to avoid the transfer of contraband.
About a dozen family members took a moment to say goodbye.
“It’s going to be a long road,” said one woman, who later identified herself as Aguirre's mother.
“I know," Aguirre replied. "I love you.”
Wu did take the step of recommending Aguirre be placed in a Southern California prison so that he might be near his family — over Trutanich's objection.
The prosecutor argued a close-by placement would give Aguirre the opportunity to continue illegal behavior.
"His gang is right here," Trutanich said.
“Frankly, there are gangs all over the prison system,” Wu replied.
In addition to 25 years in federal prison, Aguirre was sentenced to 5 years of supervision once released.