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Judge sentenced gang leader to life in prison _ in solitary confinement

February 15, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A leader of the Latin Kings gang who was convicted of ordering the killing of three gang members from his prison cell was sentenced Friday to life in prison in solitary confinement.

U.S District Judge John S. Martin said if he could, he would have sentenced Luis Felipe to death ``as the only foolproof means of preventing this defendant from ordering murders in the future.″

``This defendant has absolutely no regard for human life and he obviously enjoys a god-like role in determining who should live and die,″ said Martin, who does not support the death penalty.

Felipe, 34, was sentenced to life in prison plus 45 years for his role in the murder and attempted murder of three people. Federal sentencing guidelines do not allow for capital punishment in conspiracy cases.

The judge said Felipe, also known as ``King Blood,″ should be barred from using the telephone, having contact with other inmates and receiving visitors other than relatives who get court approval, restrictions usually made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Felipe said the isolation would kill him ``day by day.″

``Why don’t you give him a gun and let him shoot himself. He’s being tortured,″ said Felipe’s lawyer, Lawrence Feitell. He said he would appeal the restrictions.

Prosecutors said they would have to research legal history before commenting on the sentencing.

Legal experts said judges have the power to dictate conditions of a prison term. John Byrnes, a lawyer with the federal defender division of the Legal Aid Society, said a judge could impose such restrictions to protect the public from future crimes.

``It’s a moot question because it’s likely that the Bureau of Prisons would do something like this anyway,″ he told The New York Times for Saturday’s editions.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Daniel Dunne would not comment because he hadn’t seen the judge’s orders, but said it is not unusual for a judge to make recommendations.

``If there are some mitigating factors that the court wants to point out to us, we’ll take a look at it,″ he said.

The judge noted that trial evidence proved Felipe used prison visits and letters to order three gang members to execute three others, including William Cartegena, a former high-ranking member of the gang.

Witnesses testified that gang members directed by Felipe took Cartegena to an abandoned Bronx apartment and strangled him, cutting off his head, his hands and his gang tattoo before setting his body on fire in a bathtub.

Martin noted that young loyal followers of Felipe were seated in the courtroom, although he could not see another 200 Latin Kings who stood behind police barricades outside the courthouse awaiting the sentencing.

He said any one of them could become Felipe’s next target alone with anyone else who ``provoked his wrath with some slight, real or imagined.″

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