Coded message shows Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover should stay in Supermax, feds say
A new court filing says the message shows the notorious Chicago street gang leader is still revered and shouldn’t get the break on his life term that he’s seeking.
Federal prosecutors who are fighting Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover’s bid for a break on his prison sentence say a “board member” of the street gang tried to communicate with him through a coded message in a Supermax prison in which he referred to Hoover as “chief.”
In a new court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Walker said the 2015 message shows Hoover is still a “revered and inspirational figure” in the gang who shouldn’t be given a break on his life prison term.
“Granting Hoover a discretionary reduction in his sentence would send a shockwave through the community and embolden gang members who still look to Hoover as their inspirational leader,” Walker said in the court filing Monday.
For more than a year, Hoover has been trying to convince a federal judge in Chicago to give him a break on his sentence under the federal First Step Act, a law signed in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump that 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.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber has yet to rule on the request.
The court filing Monday marks prosecutors’ latest effort to keep a man prosecutors have called “the most notorious gang leader in Chicago’s modern history” locked up for life in a prison that’s been likened to a modern-day Alcatraz.
Hoover was convicted in state court of ordering a killing in 1973 and sentenced to 150 to 200 years in Illinois’ prison system. While in prison, federal authorities say he went on to run the gang’s $100 million-a-year drug business. An FBI investigation led to his federal life sentence for drug conspiracy in 1998.
If Leinenweber rules in his favor, Hoover still would face a return to Illinois’ prison system.
In the new court filing, Walker told Leinenweber of the recent federal indictment of reputed Gangster Disciples leaders Anthony Dobbins and Warren “Big Head” Griffin and others in East St. Louis.
That indictment, which didn’t charge Hoover with a crime, says Dobbins told Griffin in September 2014 that Hoover had appointed them as “board members” for the gang.Dobbins was in prison at the time, court records show.
According to prosecutors, Dobbins and Hoover were both in the Supermax in Florence, Colorado, in 2015 when Dobbins wrote a coded message to Hoover disguised in a list of court cases.
Prosecutors say Dobbins wrote: “Chief, this code is very important … Whenever we see a word with a small dash in front, we do not count that word. We only count the whole word that is the farthest over to the left. We also count every single letter. Only we know this code. Nobody else does. We communicate in plain sight. I am ready to handle your business.”
Prison authorities said Dobbins and Hoover deciphered the code using Merriam-Webster pocket dictionaries found in their cells.
According to prosecutors, Dobbins’ coded message suggests that Hoover continued to participate in gang affairs despite being locked up in the Supermax prison.
“Dobbins’s claim that Hoover appointed him to the gang’s board of directors — and Dobbins’s attempt to send a coded message to Hoover, offering to handle his business —further illustrate Hoover’s ongoing stature and power,” Walker wrote.
When prison officials questioned Hoover about the message in 2015, they say he told them, “The stuff which was found was in Dobbins’ property, not mine.”
Prison officials said Hoover acknowledged, though, that he “maybe” planned to communicate with Dobbins but “had not yet.”
As a prison disciplinary measure, Hoover’s commissary privileges were suspended for 10 months, and he was fined $75, prison records show.
Dobbins was serving a prison sentence for armed robbery when he was in the Supermax in 2015. He was released in early 2018 but got arrested later that year for drug possession in downstate Illinois. In 2019, he was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison and is back in the Supermax.
Last month, Dobbins was charged in a new federal racketeering indictment accusing downstate Gangster Disciples members of participating in two murders and other crimes, including supplying drugs to inmates in prisons.
The indictment accused Dobbins of vowing to kill anyone who challenged his authority as a “board member” of the gang after he was allegedly promoted to the position by Hoover.
Hoover’s lawyer Justin Moore has said he doubts it would be possible for Hoover to promote gang members while being held under such high security and asked why prosecutors hadn’t brought up the allegation earlier in Hoover’s efforts to get a reduced sentence.
Prosecutors first disclosed the coded message last year in opposing Hoover’s request for a break in his life sentence, but at the time they didn’t identify Dobbins, whose name was blacked out from the records that were filed in federal court.