Ex-gang leader earns accolades at Sundance, then sentenced for extortion

Annie Sweeney (Chicago Tribune) | March 8, 2011

Less than 24 hours after a Hollywood studio awarded him a screenwriting contract, a former leader of a national gang that sprung from the hard-core punk scene was sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison by a federal judge in Chicago.

The highs and lows provided a snapshot of the life of Elgin Nathan James, 41,who led a street gang called FSU before turning his life around and becoming a filmmaker who has earned the support of notables such as actors Robert Redford and Ed Harris.

“The last few months have been a juxtaposition of the best and worst of my life,” James said after court in a statement. “Today I faced my day of reckoning. … I have accepted responsibility for my past, and I am now looking forward to continuing my film career.”

James was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon on Tuesday for the 2006 attempted extortion of a Chicago-area musician who was the target of beatings by the FSU gang. James offered to make the beatings stop for $5,000.

It was a scheme that Conlon said she found particularly disturbing before she sentenced him to one year and one day to prison. The extra day allows him to be released after serving about 10 months.

Read more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-extortion-sentence-20110308,0,5328069.story

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