LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles judge on Wednesday sentenced the man convicted of gunning down Nipsey Hussle to 60 years to life in prison after hearing testaments to the immense cost of the killing of the hip-hop star and neighborhood leader, and of the lifetime of mental illness, abuse and struggle of the man who shot him.
Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke II handed down the sentence to Eric R. Holder Jr., 33, who was found guilty of the 2019 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 in very similar circumstances.
“I am very mindful of what was presented as to Mr. Holder’ 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.”
After the monthlong trial, jurors in July also convicted Holder 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Douglas said Hussle's store and surrounding businesses that he owned and supported have been closed down, and it has meant that “the Homies don’t have nothing to do.”
Douglas told the judge, “I don’t care what you give this guy. It ain’t about the time. I just want to know why. The world wants to know why. Why someone would do that?”
Actor 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 gave similar impact statements.
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.
“I know there are not enough words that would fill the void, the pain, the deep sorrow that they feel,” the letter read. "I question myself every day asking if I as a father did everything to help Eric Jr. stabilize his mental health."
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 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.
The evidence against Holder was so overwhelming — from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure — that Jansen conceded during trial that he had shot Hussle, asking jurors to find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. But jurors took just six hours deliberating before returning with the first-degree murder verdict.
As Holder was taken from the courtroom Wednesday, Douglas sang “Hit the Road Jack” toward him. Jacke shouted “Out!” and deputies led Douglas out.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton