Date: Thursday, 23 February 2023
LOS ANGELES — Eric R. Holder Jr. was convicted of fatally shooting rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019 and has been sentenced to 60 years to life in prison.
Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke handed down the sentence Wednesday after hearing from one of Hussle's friends and listening to a letter from Holder's father that was read in court. Holder, dressed in orange jail attire, stared straight ahead throughout the proceedings and did not react when the sentence was read, and spoke only to tell the judge he understood the circumstances when he was asked.
"I am very mindful of what was presented as to Mr. Holder’s mental health," Jacke said. "I am also mindful of the devastation caused to the victims and their families. I believe this sentence balances the two."
Jacke sentenced Holder to 25 years to life for the murder, 25 more for a firearm sentencing enhancement and 10 for assault with a firearm. He set several other sentencing additions and ordered that others run concurrent. He also gave Holder credit for the nearly four years he has served since the shooting.
Jurors in a Los Angeles courtroom in July found Holder, 32, guilty of the first-degree murder of the 33-year-old Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist outside the clothing store Hussle founded, the Marathon, in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where both men grew up.
Holder was also convicted of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a firearm for gunfire that hit two other men at the scene who survived.
The sentencing had been delayed in part so defense attorney Aaron Jansen could move for Judge Jacke to reduce Holder’s conviction to manslaughter or second-degree murder, which the judge rejected in December.
"We hope that there is some resounding peace in the fact that his killer will be in prison likely for the rest of his life," the lead prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, said after the verdict.
Lauren London, who was Hussle’s partner and the mother of his two young children, did not attend any part of the trial, nor did any of his relatives, and none are expected to give victim impact statements, as often happens at such hearings.
Nipsey Hussle murder trial verdict: Eric R. Holder found guilty in fatal shooting
In an impact statement before the sentence was handed down, Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, a close friend of Hussle who was standing with him when he was killed and testified during the trial, told the judge that the killing was a tremendous loss both for him personally and for the South Los Angeles community where Hussle was a business leader, and an inspiration.
"Nipsey was my friend, he was like a son, he was like a dad," said Douglas, who took off his black cowboy hat as he entered the courtroom and wore a sweatshirt with a picture of Hussle on the front. "Our community right now, we lost everything, everything we worked for. One man’s mistake, one man’s action, messed up a whole community."
But Jansen argued to jurors that the heated circumstances of the shooting meant a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter was merited. The jury returned with the first-degree murder verdict after about six hours of deliberations.
Jansen said afterward that he was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict, which they planned to appeal. He did manage a minor victory for Holder by securing the attempted voluntary manslaughter convictions where prosecutors had sought attempted murder verdicts.
Related: The graphic video of Takeoff's death and what it says about our desensitization to trauma
Asking for a lesser sentence of 25 years to life that would allow some chance at release and rehabilitation, Jansen detailed a childhood of physical abuse and poverty for Holder.
As he reached adulthood, Jansen said Holder suffered "a terrible descent into mental illness" that led to "years of torment and struggle" with issues including agonizing auditory hallucinations that resisted all attempts at treatment.
He showed photos of a head injury Holder suffered at the hands of other inmates during the trial, saying he has been targeted as Hussle's killer and that his life behind bars is "going to be brutal. It’s going to be short. He’s already received numerous death threats."
Jansen also read a letter from Holder's father, Eric Holder Sr. apologizing to Hussle's family and to the other victims.
Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, and Holder had known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin’ 60s in South LA. Both were aspiring rappers. But Holder never found the same success as Hussle, who would become a local hero and a national celebrity.
A chance meeting outside the Marathon, in a shopping center Hussle owned, led to a conversation the two men had about rumors that Holder had been acting as an informant for authorities. Jansen argued that being publicly accused of being a “snitch” by a person as prominent as Hussle brought on a “heat of passion” in Holder that prompted the shooting.
A woman who was with Holder that day, and who took a photo with Hussle before becoming Holder’s unwitting getaway driver, was a key witness for the prosecution.
Authorities confirm Takeoff death, seek additional information from shooting
After years of devoted work that won him underground acclaim — his nickname was both a play on the name of comedian Nipsey Russell and a nod to the hustle the future hip-hop star showed in making music and selling CDs — Hussle had just released his major-label debut album and earned his first Grammy nomination when he was killed.
A year after his death, he was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included DJ Khaled and John Legend.