Latin King head gets long drug-dealing sentence

Latin King head gets long drug-dealing sentence
NEW YORK (AP) June 15, 1999 – The deposed leader of the Latin Kings, after apologizing to his family, friends and followers, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 1/2 years in prison for conspiring to deal cocaine and heroin.

Antonio “King Tone” Fernandez, 32, stood with his head bowed as U.S. District Judge Reena Raggi handed down the sentence in Brooklyn. It was the minimum term that Fernandez faced; the judge could have added another 27 months.

Fernandez, in a mismatched blue prison uniform, admitted his role in the conspiracy before addressing the court and about two dozen Kings in the audience. Fernandez, who had vowed to convert the Kings from a street gang into a socially-conscious organization, apologized for betraying his backers.

“I’m responsible for my actions,” Fernandez said in a soft voice. “I want to thank the community for their support, and say I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t reach our goals. I want to tell my family I’m sorry.”

At the end of the 20-minute hearing, Fernandez was led from the second-floor courtroom by federal marshals. He raised a clenched fist to his supporters, and they returned the gesture or flashed back the Kings’ crown symbol.

Fernandez’s attorney, radical lawyer Ronald Kuby, hugged the defendant before leaving. Kuby had stood with his hand on his client’s shoulder when Raggi pronounced the sentence.

“Good-bye,” Fernandez told him before returning to his jail cell.

Fernandez pleaded guilty on Jan. 15 to selling 700 grams of heroin and 3 1/2 kilos of cocaine between September 1996 and June 1997 – a period when he was trying to change the Kings’ public persona. In April 1997, a piece on ABC’s “Nightline” had focused on his efforts to revamp the Kings.

After the guilty plea, Fernandez was immediately removed from his position as Supreme Inca of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. “King Tone” took over in 1996 after his predecessor, Luis “King Blood” Felipe, was sentenced to life in solitary confinement on a racketeering conviction.

Prior to his ascension, Fernandez was a crack addict with a pair of drug convictions. But he claimed to have left the thug life behind in favor of social activism, leading the Kings in protests against police brutality and other ills.

The pony-tailed Kuby, in a brief appeal to Raggi before sentencing, said his client “made a legitimate effort to reform the Latin Kings, to not just preach but to teach.”

With good behavior, Fernandez could be out of jail in 10 years – when his two daughters will be hitting their adolescence.

AP-ES-06-15-99 1406EDT

Copyright © Associated Press.

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