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Nipsey Hussle Live Updates: Eric Holder Guilty of First Degree Murder

Nipsey Hussle in 2018.
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Credit…Photograph of the pool taken by Frederick M. Brown.

More than three years after the fatal shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose 2019 murder in front of a local clothing store he owned wreaked havoc in the South Los Angeles neighborhood he devoted his adult life to protecting, a jury found Eric R. Holder on Wednesday the younger is guilty of first-degree murder in the case. The verdict closes a painful chapter in hip-hop’s recent history.

At trial, prosecutors described the shooter as an embittered acquaintance who belonged to the same street gang as Hussle but felt disrespected during a brief skirmish in the parking lot.

That Mr. Holder pulled the trigger was not disputed in court. His own public defender and several witnesses identified him as the assailant who shot Hussle with two pistols, hitting the rapper at least 10 times before kicking him in the head.

But Mr. Holder’s legal team argued that the case was overstated. Aaron Jansen, a public defender representing Mr. Holder, said the killing was not premeditated, but instead happened in a “hot state,” about nine minutes after the conversation, in which Hussle cited rumors that Mr. Holder cooperated with law enforcement. , or snitched, which is a serious crime in the gang world, and urged him to clarify the situation.

According to his lawyer, Mr. Holder should have been charged with premeditated manslaughter.

After less than an hour of meeting on the second day of deliberation, the jury’s decision to find Mr. Holder guilty of first-degree murder showed that they agreed with the Los Angeles County Attorney’s Office that Mr. Holder had made the decision to kill Hussle. when he returned to the car after their initial conversation, loaded his gun, took a few bites of French fries, and then walked back through the parking lot to confront the rapper.

Mr Holder, 32, could face a life sentence. He will be sentenced later.

He was also found guilty of two counts of attempted manslaughter, resulting in two bystanders being injured in the shooting, which are lesser charges than the charges of attempted murder filed by prosecutors.

Mr. Holder’s lawyer argued that his client had no intention of harming any of the injured, both of whom he did not know, when he attacked Hussle outside the Marathon clothing store in the Crenshaw area, where both the rapper and attacker grew up. .

In addition, Mr. Holder was found guilty of possession of a firearm as a felon and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

In court, Mr. Holder looked ahead without flinching. He was wearing a dark blue suit and white sneakers, as well as a black coronavirus mask. During the announcement of the verdict, there was not a sound in the courtroom – no reaction from the half-empty gallery.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asguedom, was widely mourned after his death at the age of 33 as a principled artist and entrepreneur who transcended his early years as a member of the local band the Rollin’ 60s Crips to become a badass, motivational lyricist and community ambassador. His April 2019 public memorial at what was then the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles drew an estimated 20,000 fans, including Stevie Wonder and Snoop Dogg. In a letter read aloud, former President Barack Obama called the rapper’s life “a legacy worthy of respect.”

Although Hussle was not a commercial hitmaker for most of his career, he was known for his extensive industry connections and independent business sense, selling music on his own terms, including the $100 limited edition “Crenshaw” mixtape for 15 years. before releasing their main album. Debut on the Victory Lap label in 2018. A Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and a management partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation near the end of his life prepared the rapper for a deeper entry into the mainstream.

Along the way, Hussle also preached black empowerment through business and education, investing his winnings as a musician in the neighborhood where he grew up. With a group of sponsors, Hussle purchased the mall on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slawson Avenue, which housed his Marathon store, and helped open a nearby co-working space dedicated to growing diversity in science and technology.

On the Sunday afternoon that Hussle was killed, he made an unannounced visit to the mall, as he often did, according to court testimony. Meeting friends and employees in the parking lot, Hussle signed autographs and took pictures with fans for about half an hour.

At the time, a woman Mr. Holder happened to meet was driving him around the area, as this woman, Brianita Nicholson, testified. A key prosecution witness who stated that she transported Mr. Holder to and from the scene of the shooting, Ms. Nicholson was granted immunity from prosecution for her appearance in court.

When Ms. Nicholson pulled up to the square so Mr. Holder could grab something to eat, she spotted Hussle in the parking lot and remarked in passing that he looked handsome, she said at the booth. After ordering French fries nearby, Mr. Holder, a fellow member of the Rollin’ 60s Crips, approached Hussle for a quick chat while Ms. Nicholson waited in the car, she said.

According to witnesses, the meeting between the two men was casual and low-key. But prosecutors said Hussle told Mr Holder that there were rumors in the neighborhood that he rapped. Hussle urged Mr. Holder to “get the papers” proving he didn’t, said John McKinney, the Los Angeles County deputy district attorney leading the case.

“It looked like a normal conversation,” Mr. McKinney told jurors. But obviously it wasn’t. He called the couple “two men whose life curved in opposite directions.”

In his closing arguments, Mr. Jansen, the defense attorney, nodded at Hussle’s status in society, suggesting that the rapper’s fame made his encounter with Mr. Holder, an aspiring musician, even more frustrating.

“Eric’s mood is, ‘I’m in this band, I grew up next door to them, and now Nipsey Hussle is making me look like a snitch,'” Mr. Jansen said.

When the two men finished talking, Ms Nicholson said she overheard the conversation about the denunciation when she approached Hussle to take a selfie she posted on Facebook. This will be the last photo of the rapper. Asked in court if she felt a fight was about to break out, Ms Nicholson replied, “No, I wasn’t afraid at all.”

When Ms. Nicholson pulled up to another nearby parking lot for Mr. Holder to eat, she testified that he pulled out a gun and began loading it. He returned to Hussle’s shop; soon Mrs. Nicholson heard gunshots.

Witnesses said Mr. Holder confronted the rapper outside and said, “You’re done” as he opened fire.

“You got me,” Hussle said, according to the prosecutor. Two of the men standing with Hussle, Kerry Lathan and Shermie Villanueva, were hit by gunshots.

In his opening remarks, prosecutor Mr. McKinney presented Ms. Nicholson as some kind of unwitting accomplice. “I think you will find in it naivete, simplicity,” he said. In her testimony, Ms. Nicholson mostly answered questions with a calm “yes” or “I don’t know.” Mr. Holder mostly avoided her gaze or looked at her dispassionately as she testified.

When Mr. Holder got back into her car, Ms. Nicholson said, he told her to drive or he would slap her. That evening, she learned of Hussle’s death. But Ms. Nicholson said it wasn’t until a day after the shooting, when her mother got her white Chevy Cruze on the news, that she realized Mr. Holder might be involved.

Mr. McKinney stressed that Ms. Nicholson quickly agreed to cooperate with the police, giving the authorities access to data from her phone and giving many hours of interrogation. “I thought, ‘My God, this is my reputation too,’” she testified.

In addition to being the agreed-upon motive for the shooting, the concept of denunciation—and its immense importance in gang culture—loomed over the trial itself. Although Mr. Holder has been repeatedly called the shooter, lawyers on both sides have cited the reluctance of some witnesses to testify in detail or even appear in court for fear of retaliation.

“I don’t know anything, I don’t see anything,” said Mr. Latan, who was injured during the incident, during his turn to testify.

“You don’t want to testify about what happened?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes,” said Mr. Lathan.

Cedric Washington, an LAPD detective, said the problem was prevalent even outside of gang cases. “Everyone seems to think that if they go to court they will be punished,” he said.

But prosecutors relied in part on the testimony of Herman Douglas, aka Cowboy, a former member of the Rollin’ ’60s who worked at Hussle’s Marathon.

Mr. Douglas testified that while he is no longer involved in the life of the gang, he still keeps a vigilant eye on every vehicle and person that crosses his path for signs that they may be dangerous. He said that at no time in Hussle’s conversation with Mr. Holder did he feel that the rapper was in danger. “I’d snatch him out of there,” said Mr. Douglas.

When the defense asked Mr. Douglas if there could be such dire consequences as “beating or even killing” for denunciation, Mr. Douglas said it was unlikely. He noted that some may consider his participation in the court a denunciation. But since he showed up in the neighborhood, everything has changed.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “Maybe in the 80s, yes, but it’s 2022 now.”

Mr. Holder was attacked while in custody last Tuesday, briefly delaying the final days of his trial. Mr Jansen, his lawyer, said his client was slapped in the face and “cut with something like a razor”. Mr. Holder was braced in the back of his head and checked for concussion.

Because of the high-profile nature of the case and its reliance on questions about the consequences of the denunciation, Mr Jansen said his client should have been in custody.

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