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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Edgar Diaz, 23, was a member of the Down Below Gang, which operated in the Sunnydale housing project

Edgar Diaz, 23, was a member of the Down Below Gang, which operated in the Sunnydale housing project in the Visitacion Valley district of San Francisco. Prosecutors said the gang sold crack cocaine and other drugs and protected its turf with violence and murder.Diaz pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco in November to participating in a racketeering conspiracy that included three murders and several attempted murders personally committed by Diaz.The 40-year sentence handed down by Alsup on Tuesday was agreed to by prosecutors and defense lawyers in the plea bargain.Before the guilty plea, Diaz faced the possibility of a rare federal death penalty if his case had gone to trial and he had been convicted. The U.S. Justice Department had authorized local federal prosecutors to seek a death penalty.Alsup referred to the three murders during the sentencing and said, "In a way, it's hard to accept the sentence of only 40 years, as long as that is."But the judge said he had to defer to prosecutors' decision to reach a plea agreement.
A second gang member, Emile Fort, 27, continues to face a possible death penalty if convicted of three different murders he is accused of in connection with racketeering.Fort is due to go on trial in Alsup's court on Feb. 23.Diaz and Fort are among 12 members of the gang indicted in an 86-count indictment in October 2005. The 10 others have pleaded guilty to various charges.One of them, Raymon Milburn, was sentenced by Alsup Tuesday to seven years in prison for his guilty plea on a charge of conspiring to murder a man who was a potential prosecution witness against Fort.


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