Imprisoned Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover, who says he’s no longer involved with the gang and is asking for an early release from his life sentence, promoted two men to top posts in the gang while locked up in a federal “super-max” prison in Colorado, according to an indictment unsealed Monday in East St. Louis.
The indictment says the two men threatened to kill anyone who challenged their authority and, on May 18, 2018, shot and killed a rival Gangster Disciples board member on the South Side of Chicago.
Hoover — who prosecutors have called “the most notorious gang leader in Chicago’s modern history” — isn’t charged in the indictment, which targets leaders of the Gangster Disciples in downstate Illinois and eastern Missouri in a racketeering case that includes two murders.
Hoover has asked a federal judge in Chicago to reduce his life sentence under a reform measure called the federal First Step Act, which allows people convicted of crack-cocaine offenses to challenge their sentences in light of subsequent changes in federal sentencing guidelines. Other high-ranking members of the gang have been released from prison under the same law.
But U.S. Attorney John Lausch urged U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber last year to keep Hoover in federal prison for the rest of his life. The judge hasn’t ruled.
If Leinenweber decides Hoover has served enough time in federal prison under the life term he was handed in 1997 for running a criminal enterprise, Hoover still faces a 200-year Illinois state court sentence from 1973 for ordering the killing of a gang member he suspected was stealing from him.
Hoover attorney Justin Moore said Tuesday he wasn’t aware of the new indictment and questioned the idea that Hoover could have been involved in gang affairs from behind bars.
“It seems almost impossible that he would be able to communicate that to anyone if he were trying to,” he said.
Moore questioned why prosecutors — who previously have said they suspected Hoover was still involved in the gang — hadn’t brought up the latest accusation during arguments over Hoover’s bid for a reduced sentence.
“This is a 70-year-old man in the twilight of his years who has serious medical complications and is seeking release to finally be with his wife, children and grandchildren after nearly 50 years of separation,” Moore said. “To have his name continuously thrown into the affairs of others and to be used as a scapegoat for criminal activity he has no connection to needs to cease.”
The new indictment says one member of the gang, Anthony Dobbins, told another, Warren “Big Head” Griffin, in September 2014 that Hoover had appointed them as “board members” — the highest rank in the gang’s leadership.
It also says Dobbins, 53, who’s from downstate Troy, a suburb of St. Louis, and Griffin, 51, from Lancaster, Kentucky, threatened to kill anyone who resisted their authority, though it doesn’t say how authorities got that information.
On May 18, 2018, Dobbins and Griffin shot and killed Earnest “Don Smokey” Wilson, 65, a rival Gangster Disciples board member, in the 7100 block of South Euclid Avenue in Chicago, according to the East St. Louis indictment.
Dobbins and Griffin were arrested later in 2018, Dobbins for drug possession and Griffin in a separate case for illegal possession of a gun.
Dobbins is being held in the same prison where Hoover is being held, the federal super-max in Florence, Colorado, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Griffin is in a federal prison in Kentucky.
According to the Chicago police, the Gangster Disciples and other big Chicago gangs have, over the past two decades, fragmented into factions that aren’t controlled at the top the way they used to be. About 900 gang factions operate in Chicago today, police say. But recent indictments against Gangster Disciples members downstate and in Atlanta suggest that the corporate structure of the gang has remained in place.