WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Federal Judge James A. Beaty sentenced Latin Kings leader Jorge Cornell to 28 years in federal prison Wednesday.
Last year, a jury convicted Cornell of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
On Wednesday, Judge Beaty ordered Cornell to serve two 216-month sentences concurrently for the first two charges. The third charge carries a mandatory 10-year minimum, which Judge Beaty ordered Cornell to serve after the other sentences. The combination of the two sentences amounts to 28 years, which is on the low-end of sentencing guidelines which allowed Beaty to impose up to 50 years on Cornell.
US Attorney Leshia Lee-Dixon characterized Cornell as a dangerous gang leader who influenced members of the Latin Kings to attempt murders, sell drugs, assault rival gang members and commit other crimes.
Speaking on his own behalf, Cornell took the opportunity to attack the government and the criminal justice system as a deep web of conspiracies.
"I have no faith in this system," Cornell told Judge Beaty while shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Cornell compared his Almighty Latin Kings Nation to a church and himself to a pastor, saying a church and pastor are not guilty if a member of the congregation makes a mistake.
"I never ever have ordered for anyone to do any act of violence," Cornell said.
Cornell then teared up, mentioning that his daughter was present. He then went on to predict his own assassination.
"I'll be lucky if I last a year in [federal prison]," Cornell said. "I believe the government will pay someone to assassinate me."
Cornell asserted the assassination would be part of the whole larger conspiracy against him, and claimed the only reason he was in chains before a judge was because the government had manipulated former associates to speak out against him.
"Everything came word of mouth from a bunch of liars, a bunch of scared kids who did what the FBI told them to do," Cornell said.
Cornell had witnesses come to the stand to ask Judge Beaty for leniency, saying Cornell was neither dangerous not a bad influence.
"He's a wonderful individual and I think many of us would like to be like him," said Dr. Bryan Simms, a professor at North Carolina A&T who got to know Cornell through his community work.
Cornell has 14 days to file a written appeal, and he already had it filled out in the courtroom.
"This isn't goodbye, this is see ya later," Cornell said. "I know I am innocent and I will remain innocent no matter what happens in this court room today."