Oakland gang leader sentenced to life in prison

December 2, 2008 1:37:45 PM PST
The former leader of an Oakland gang called the "Nut Cases" laughed and talked back to a judge today as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and other charges for a 2002 crime spree.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Joseph Hurley said he wished he had the power to sentence Leon Wiley, 30, to the death penalty instead of life in prison.

"We all have to meet our maker some day and we would be better off if he (Wiley) did so at a much earlier date," Hurley said, saying that Wiley is "cold, calculated and unrepentant."

Wiley responded with statements including "This is the Nut Cases," "I ain't scared of nothin'" and "I don't give a f---."

Guarded by five bailiffs, Wiley also made repeated reference to his nicknames, which are "Tweezy" and "Gotti." The latter nickname refers to former New York Mafia leader John Gotti.

In addition to convicting Wiley on Sept. 30 of three counts of first-degree murder, jurors convicted him of two counts of attempted murder and one count each of shooting into an inhabited dwelling and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Jurors also convicted Wiley of the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.

Wiley could have faced the death penalty, but prosecutors chose to seek life in prison instead. They made that decision after they were unable to get a death penalty verdict for another Nut Cases member, DeMarcus Ralls, who was responsible for five murders.

Ralls was the first gang member to stand trial and Wiley was the ninth and last.

The Nut Cases gang went on a 10-week crime spree that terrorized Oakland in late 2002 and early 2003.

Wiley is the last of a group of Nut Cases defendants who were charged in 2003 to stand trial.

Three other gang members, including Ralls, also have been sentenced to life terms and the others received lengthy prison terms.

The gang members called themselves the Nut Cases because authorities said they engaged in their crime spree mainly for thrills. Some members of the group sported tattoos of the Planters "Mr. Peanut" logo.

Prosecutor Michael Nieto said Wiley shot to death 21-year-old Tracy Easterling at the corner of 94th Avenue and Peach Street in East Oakland on Oct. 29, 2002.

Nieto said Wiley also directed three associates to kill Keith Maki-Harris, 14, and Jerry Duckworth, 24, inside an apartment at 871 Campbell St. in Oakland on Dec. 27, 2002.

Oakland police said the killings resulted from an argument between Wiley and others over his girlfriend.

Nieto said Wiley "was the boss, the shot-caller" in the shooting deaths of Maki-Harris and Duckworth.

Nieto said Wiley led the gang while leader Gregory Colbert was in state prison. But he said Colbert was out of prison and back in control of the gang when the crimes in Wiley's case were committed.

Before Wiley was sentenced, Tracy Easterling's aunt, Kathleen Miller, said, Easterling planned to be a beautician and that she had warned her niece a week before she was killed about hanging out with the wrong kind of people, such as Wiley.

Miller said she doesn't like "to see people who have no remorse - that's a crime in itself."

Asked by Hurley if he wanted to say anything before he was sentenced, Wiley said, "No, I'm cool."


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