CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago gang leader who prosecutors say oversaw a sophisticated and brutal organization with at least 10,000 "soldiers" in Illinois — even while he was in prison — that beat, shot and extorted money from rivals was sentenced Wednesday to 60 years in federal prison.
Fifty-one-year-old Augustin Zambrano did not speak during the hearing and displayed no emotion when U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle imposed the maximum sentence that, because federal guidelines require he serve at least 51 years, means he will most certainly die behind bars.
Calling Zambrano, an unimposing man with short, graying hair, "a leader of this barbarian organization," Nagle said that in court filings Zambrano had shown no remorse and had not accepted any responsible for his role in the Chicago-based street gang.
Zambrano was convicted by a jury in April of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit extortion and assault with a deadly weapon after a trial in which prosecutors portrayed him as the "CEO" of the Latin Kings, a Chicago-based gang with members across the United States.
Zambrano, who did not testify at the trial, smiled at friends and relatives, some of whom were quietly crying during the sentencing, and gave them a small wave as he arrived and left the courtroom.
During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors the gang's written rules and even a constitution that governed the behavior of gang members, including an order to retaliate by shooting anyone who shoots a member of the Latin Kings.
"He put systems in place that led to ... all of these shootings ..." Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Porter said Wednesday. "He enforced those systems in his reign as the Corona" (leader) for approximately a decade.
Prosecutors said that while Zambrano did not take part directly in the violence, the shootings and beatings, including of a man whose hands were smashed and two others who were beaten because they spilled a beer on Zambrano's wife, happened when Zambrano was the gang's leader. In all, trial testimony covered about 20 shootings in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, where the gang is centered, including one in which someone died.
"He is responsible for all of that," said Porter.
Zambrano has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager for charges ranging from attempted murder to burglary to conspiracy to possess narcotics. Also known as "Big Tino" and "Old Man," Zambrano was among of some 30 suspects indicted in 2008 or charged in a superseding indictment a year later after an 8-year-investigation.
Most of the others have been convicted or pleaded guilty, with some receiving sentences of more than 30 years in prison. But none of them outranked Zambrano, whom prosecutors said was a top leader of the nationwide Almighty Latin King Nation.
Porter said the gang remains a very "large organization" with members in Illinois and around the nation, adding that while the conviction and sentencing was a blow to the Latin Kings, it did not destroy the gang.
"I don't think any of us are kidding ourselves," he said.
He also said prosecutors remain concerned that Zambrano will continue to run the gang from behind bars — in large part because Zambrano did just that from a prison cell "1,000 miles away" when he was serving time on a drug charge.
Zambrano's attorney, Jim Graham, who argued for a shorter sentence that might allow him to someday walk out of prison, said that he will appeal the sentence.