That Ronald Herron would be sent to prison for the rest of his life was a foregone conclusion when he strode into Brooklyn federal court on Thursday, winking and smiling at friends and family.
But before that happened, Mr. Herron, 33, a onetime rapper who performed under the name Ra Diggs, and who was convicted of violently running a branch of a notorious drug gang and killing three people, set off fiery exchanges involving his supporters, the judge, prosecutors, the weeping sister of one of his victims and court officers.
“You guys sit here and continue to paint this picture that I’m the devil incarnate, the scourge of righteousness — it’s all crap,” Mr. Herron said, seething at prosecutors before he was sentenced. “Even the most dim prosecutor could have secured a conviction under this atmosphere of guilt they built. They did all but point a big, red arrow of guilty up on that projection screen.”
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis sentenced Mr. Herron to 12 life terms plus 105 years. He told Mr. Herron that his speech proved that he was smart and well-spoken, and that he possessed not a scrap of empathy for his victims.
“You have shown a complete lack of remorse for your abhorrent conduct,” the judge said during the hearing, which lasted about an hour and a half. “Even today, in this courtroom, you give answers that show you are clueless about the misery you have inflicted on other people and you are reconstructing through some fantastic thoughts what has happened in this case.”
Mr. Herron was convicted after one day of jury deliberations in June 2014 on 21 counts, including three murders, racketeering and drug trafficking. Prosecutors said he rose to the top of a “set” of the Bloods gang called Murderous Mad Dawgs that controlled the cocaine and heroin markets in the Gowanus and Wyckoff Houses in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood.
In court, Elizabeth Zapata, the sister of Victor Zapata, whom Mr. Herron killed in 2009, addressed the court alongside Mr. Zapata’s daughter, Skylar, 5, who wore white bows in her pigtails and clutched a pink teddy bear.
“Since the day he murdered my brother,” Ms. Zapata wept, “my life has never been the same.”
As she spoke, several of Mr. Herron’s supporters stood up and walked out.
Later, after Mr. Herron’s lawyer, Kelley Sharkey, asked that he be held in a facility where his own 5-year-old daughter could visit him, Judge Garaufis asked if there was a facility where Mr. Zapata could receive visits from his family. More than a half-dozen of Mr. Herron’s supporters stood up and shouted down the judge, prompting court officers to escort them out.
“It’s a sham!” yelled Shanduke McPhatter, 36, one of Mr. Herron’s friends.
Outside the courthouse, he said he thought the judge’s comments were unprofessional. “I was hoping the system wouldn’t be biased, and sentence him to make an example,” he said.
That is exactly what an assistant United States attorney, Shreve Ariail, had asked for. He told the judge that Mr. Herron was perhaps the worst criminal he had ever prosecuted. “A message needs to be sent that this kind of behavior, this kind of obstruction, this kind of contempt for the law cannot be tolerated,” he said.
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Mr. Ariail added that another reason to impose a long sentence was to minimize any future effects Mr. Herron could have on his community. Even in solitary confinement, Mr. Ariail said, Mr. Herron was recently found with a dozen razor blades hidden in his mattress.
“I really don’t think there’s a good chance Mr. Herron will stop committing crime in prison,” Mr. Ariail said.
Throughout the court session, Mr. Herron winked at his friends and his family, rolled his eyes, sighed and stared at the overhead clock. When he had his chance to speak, he reasserted his innocence and said that his incarceration violated the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.
“As you sit here, you denigrate me like I’m some sort of societal pestilence,” he said. “What have you contributed to my community?”
Speaking just before delivering his sentence, Judge Garaufis turned the question back on Mr. Herron.
“You personally exacerbated one of your community’s greatest blights,” he said. “You’re obviously an intelligent person, and an articulate person. You could have done something different. Instead you chose to lead a criminal organization and commit violent robbery and murder.”
As the judge spoke, Mr. Herron stared up at the clock.
Source: NY Times