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If Gangster Disciples co-founder wins freedom from federal term, Illinois prisons don’t want him

Larry Hoover is challenging his federal life sentence under the 2018 First Step Act. If successful, state officials now say he’ll remain in federal prison to serve his state murder sentence.

Larry Hoover.
Larry Hoover.
Sun-Times file

Larry Hoover, co-founder of the Gangster Disciples street gang, won’t be allowed to serve his state murder sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections prison system if he succeeds at being freed from federal prison, Illinois officials say.

Hoover is asking a federal judge in Chicago to recalculate his 1998 federal life sentence for running a criminal enterprise. Prosecutors have said that, under his control, the gang, Chicago’s largest, sold more than $100 million in drugs, including crack cocaine.

The federal First Step Act, enacted in 2018, allows prisoners to seek lower sentences based on reductions in the federal penalties for selling crack cocaine.

Before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber rules on Hoover’s request, he has said he wants to know from prosecutors and Hoover’s lawyers whether the state prison system would be able to keep him from engaging in gang activity.

That’s because Hoover was sentenced separately in state court to 100 to 150 years for a gang murder in 1973 in Chicago.

In a court filing Friday, federal prosecutors warned Leinenweber not to free Hoover, saying that would undermine respect for the law in Chicago.

And they also answered the judge’s question about whether the Illinois Department of Corrections could handle Hoover, offering a letter from Eugene Jackson, chief of investigations and intelligence for the state prison system.

“Larry Hoover presents a unique security challenge due to his notoriety within … the Gangster Disciples,” Jackson wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution and for the purpose of ensuring Mr. Hoover’s personal safety, he will be housed outside of Illinois. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has already agreed to house Mr. Hoover for the remainder of his sentence if necessary.”

It’s not unprecedented for the state prison system to send inmates to other state’s prisons or to move them to the federal prison system for security reasons.

In 2019, former Bolingbrook police Sgt. Drew Peterson was sent to the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, from a prison in southern Illinois for security purposes. Peterson was convicted of murder in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and also is a suspect in the disappearance of Stacy Peterson, his fourth wife. It’s unclear where Peterson is being held now. He’s not listed on the Illinois Department of Corrections website.

In the court filing Friday, federal prosecutors told Leinenweber that Hoover is expected to ask the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to parole him if Leinenweber frees him from his federal life sentence.

A Chicago Sun-Times analysis found that the parole board appears to have become more receptive in recent years to releasing older murder convicts like Hoover, who is 69.