Man who shot rapper Nipsey Hussle convicted of murder

LOS ANGELES — More than three years after the rapper’s fatal shooting Nipsey Hussle , whose 2019 murder outside the local clothing store...


LOS ANGELES — More than three years after the rapper’s fatal shooting Nipsey Hussle, whose 2019 murder outside the local clothing store he owned scarred the South Los Angeles neighborhood he had dedicated his adult life to defending, a jury on Wednesday found Eric R. Holder Jr. guilty first degree murder in the case. The verdict closes a painful chapter in the recent history of hip-hop.

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

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

But Mr Holder’s legal team had argued the case was overloaded. Aaron Jansen, the public defender representing Mr Holder, said the killing was not premeditated and instead occurred in the “fire of passion”, around nine minutes after a conversation in which Hussle invoked neighborhood rumors that Mr. Holder had cooperated with law enforcement. , or denounced, a serious offense in the gang world, and urged him to clear things up.

Mr Holder should have been charged with intentional homicide, his lawyer said.

After meeting for less than an hour on a second day of deliberations, jury members said they agreed with Los Angeles County prosecutors that Mr Holder had taken the decision to kill Hussle as he returned to a car after the two men spoke to each other, loaded a gun. , took a few bites of fries and then walked across the parking lot to confront the rapper.

Mr. Holder, 32, was also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder, stemming from the two bystanders injured in the shooting, lesser charges than the counts of attempted murder that prosecutors had brought.

Mr Holder’s lawyer argued that his client had no specific intention of harming either of the injured men, who were both strangers to him, when he attacked Hussle outside the Marathon Clothing store in the Crenshaw area where the rapper and his abuser have grown up.

Additionally, Holder was convicted of felony possession of a firearm and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He could face life in prison and was due to be sentenced on September 15. Mr. Jansen said that when sentencing, he will ask the judge to consider Mr. Holder’s mental health history, including a years-old diagnosis of schizophrenia.

In court, Mr. Holder stared straight ahead, unflinching. He wore a dark navy suit and white sneakers. There was no noise in the courtroom when the verdict was announced – no reaction from the half-full gallery.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was widely mourned after his death at 33 as a principled artist and entrepreneur who transcended his early years as a member of the local Rollin’ 60s Crips, emerging as a tough, motivational lyricist and community ambassador. His public memorial in April 2019in what was then known as Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, attracted some 20,000 admirers, including Stevie Wonder and Snoop Dogg.

Although he was not a commercial hitmaker for most of his career, Hussle was known for his extensive industry connections and independent business acumen, having sold music on his own terms for 15 years. before releasing his major label debut, “Victory Lap,” 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 saw the rapper sink deeper into the mainstream.

Along the way, Hussle had also preached black empowerment through business and education, investing his earnings as a musician in the neighborhood where he grew up. Along with a group of backers, Hussle bought the mall at the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue that housed his Marathon store, while helping to open a coworking space nearby dedicated to increasing diversity. in science and technology.

After the verdict, John McKinney, the assistant Los Angeles County district attorney prosecuting the case, said he hoped it would bring “resounding peace” to the rapper’s friends and fans.

“This verdict and his life story will certainly be discussed in Crenshaw and Slauson,” Mr. McKinney said, “but its significance will carry far beyond these streets.”

On the Sunday Hussle was killed, he had stopped by the mall for an unannounced visit, as he often did, according to court testimony. While catching up with friends and employees in the parking lot, Hussle spent about half an hour signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.

At the time, Bryannita Nicholson, a woman Mr. Holder had casually dated, was driving him around the area, Ms. Nicholson said. A key prosecution witness who said she transported Mr Holder to and from the scene of the shooting, Ms Nicholson was granted immunity from prosecution for his appearance in court.

When Ms Nicholson stopped in the square so Mr Holder could grab something to eat, she spotted Hussle in the parking lot and remarked in passing that he was handsome, she told the stand . Mr. Holder, another member of the Rollin ’60s Crips, approached Hussle for a quick chat while Ms. Nicholson waited in the car, she said.

The meeting between the two men was relaxed and discreet, according to accounts. But prosecutors said Hussle told Mr Holder there were rumors circulating in the neighborhood that he had spoken out. Hussle encouraged Mr. Holder to “get the paperwork” proving he hadn’t, Mr. McKinney said.

“It felt like a regular conversation,” Mr. McKinney told the jury. “But obviously it wasn’t.” He called the pair “two men whose life arcs bent in different directions.”

As the men finished talking, Ms Nicholson said she heard snitch as she approached Hussle for a selfie, which she posted on Facebook. This would be the rapper’s last photograph. When asked in court if she felt a fight was about to happen, Ms Nicholson replied: “No, I wasn’t scared at all.”

As Ms. Nicholson pulled into another parking lot nearby so that Mr. Holder could eat, she testified that he pulled out a handgun and began to load it. He walked back to Hussle’s store; soon after, Ms. Nicholson heard gunshots.

According to witnesses, Mr Holder had confronted the rapper outside and told him: “It’s over” as he opened fire.

“You got me,” Hussle said, according to the prosecutor. Two men standing with Hussle, Kerry Lathan and Shermi Villanueva, were injured by the gunfire.

In his opening statement, Mr. McKinney, the prosecutor, described Ms. Nicholson as a kind of unwitting accomplice. “I think you’ll find a naivety, a simplicity in her,” he said. Mr. Holder mostly averted her eyes or stared dispassionately at her as she testified.

In that testimony, Ms Nicholson said that when Mr Holder got back in his car, he told her to drive or he would slap her. That evening, she learns of Hussle’s death. But Ms Nicholson said it was only more than a day after the shooting, when her mother recognized her white Chevy Cruze on the news, that she realized Mr Holder might be involved.

Mr McKinney pointed out that Ms Nicholson quickly agreed to cooperate with the police, allowing authorities access to her phone data and submitting to hours of interviews. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s my reputation too,'” she testified.

In addition to being the agreed motive for the shooting, the concept of a snitch — and its outsized importance in gang culture — weighed on the trial. While Mr. Holder has been repeatedly identified as the shooter, lawyers for both sides have cited the reluctance of some witnesses to testify in detail, or even appear in court, for fear of reprisals.

“I don’t know anything, I don’t see anything,” said Mr Lathan, who was injured in the incident, during his turn on the witness stand.

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

“It’s true,” Mr. Lathan said.

Mr. Jansen, the defense attorney, had argued that it was precisely this anti-whistleblower culture that turned a conversation between Hussle and Mr. Holder into a provocation.

“Even the people who get shot don’t want to come and testify against the Rollin ’60 gang members,” Mr Jansen said in an interview after the verdict. “I thought those facts supported what we were saying: Eric Holder didn’t want to be called a snitch either, for fear of retaliation.”

Mr. Jansen added: “I just wanted people to remember that Eric Holder Jr. is a human being. He did a terrible thing and he will have to face justice for it.

Last Tuesday, Mr Holder was assaulted while in police custody, which briefly delayed the final days of the trial. His attorney said his client was punched in the face and “sliced ​​with some kind of razor.”

Due to the high-profile nature of the case and the fact that it hinged on questions about the consequences of the snitch, Mr Jansen said his client should have been remanded in custody.

In court, prosecutors relied in part on the testimony of Herman Douglas, known as Cowboy, a former Rollin’ 60s member who worked at Hussle’s Marathon store.

Mr. Douglas testified that although he was no longer involved in gang life, he still carefully watched every car and person that crossed his path for signs that they might be dangerous. At no time during Hussle’s conversation with Mr. Holder, he said, did he sense the rapper was in danger. “I would have ripped it out of there,” Mr Douglas said.

When the defense asked Mr Douglas if there could be consequences as serious as ‘getting beaten up or even killed’ for the snitch, Mr Douglas said it was unlikely. He noted that his participation in the trial could be seen as a snitch by some. But things had changed since he came up to the neighborhood.

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

After the guilty verdict, Mr Douglas sat outside the courtroom and cried into his hand, his shoulders shaking. Later, he told reporters he didn’t know if he would ever feel closed off after his friend’s death. But he said he hoped his participation in the trial would show others that sometimes it’s worth talking about.

“Just do what’s right,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what people say.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Man who shot rapper Nipsey Hussle convicted of murder
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