by Jeff Coen (Chicago Breaking News)
October 15, 2009
The last defendant to be sentenced in the sweeping federal case against the Insane Deuces street gang of Aurora was sentenced Thursday to the maximum 20 years in prison after a prosecutor described him as an enforcer who "sent children out to kill other children."
Romel Handley, 25, often shook his head at the defense table as Assistant U.S. Atty. Patrick Pope described him as the leader of the gang's army of "shorties," or younger members who were recruited to commit shootings for the gang in its war against the Latin Kings.
The gang's guiding principal was murdering its opponents, Pope said, and Handley was part of it. Witnesses in the case accused Handley of personally taking part in nine attempted murders on the gang's behalf.
"They preyed on and killed the people and the children of Aurora," Pope said.
At the height of the gang's activities, the suburb might see 25 murders a year, Pope said. After the investigation, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the suburb endured only two homicides in 2008.
In all, 15 others were charged with Handley in a racketeering conspiracy in 2003 and blamed for multiple murders in the town, The case resulted in life sentences for several gang members.
Handley's attorney, Beau Brindley, argued his client joined the gang out of fear as a 14-year-old and made an attempt earlier this decade to draw back his participation in gang life. That put a target on Handley's back known as a "smash-on-sight" order from the gang, making him the least culpable defendant in the case, Brindley said.
When he had a chance to address the court, Handley asked for forgiveness and said he had learned his lesson, calling himself "young and dumb."
"I gained nothing from gang life, and I have lost everything except my life," he said as he stood in the courtroom in an orange prison jumpsuit with his hair in cornrows.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber agreed it's a tragedy when young teens are pulled into gangs at an early age, but he said he believed Handley was a full member of the Insane Deuces conspiracy. A maximum sentence would be just punishment, he said.
After the sentence was handed down, Handley looked toward supporters in the courtroom and mouthed a message: "I'll be back. Don't worry about it."