My colleague Mary Mitchell made a bold plea Thursday for gang leader Larry Hoover to be released from prison. Her argument is that police often lie, and Hoover has been in prison for nearly half a century. True enough. She also scoffs at the idea that Hoover could control his gang from prison. My understanding is that this is not outrageous. I covered Hoover's conspiracy trial here in 1997, and he seemed quite open about it. My central memory of listening to those tapes is looking over at Hoover in court and thinking, "Lex Luthor he is not."Beatings with baseball bats and Larry Hoover's envy of fellow gang leader Jeff Fort were part of a glimpse inside the Gangster Disciples' lifestyle Monday in federal court.
Hoover, who is serving a 150- to 200-year sentence for a 1973 murder, is being tried with six associates on drug conspiracy charges.
On tapes played in court Monday, Hoover seemed familiar with the minute details of his operation. "Who on 47 (Street) that's working? Is they folks?" Hoover asked, urging that problem members be brought down to see him.
"You got to bring these chumps in," he said. "Get Pops and get a crew together and ride. You got a problem with me, you see me."
Elsewhere, Hoover expressed admiration for the Black Panthers, calling it "the most beneficial organization in the 20th century."
"It's lean; it's strong," he said, leading into a nostalgic reminiscence about his days of freedom.
"I was king at 19," he said. "Eighteen—at 18, I was king."
Hoover remembered seeing El Rukn gang leader Jeff Fort at a church meeting in the late 1960s.
"You could hear a pin drop when he was walking in," said Hoover, recalling their snazzy suede jackets. "I told myself I could have a mob like that . . . I remember it like it was yesterday."
To record those discussions, investigators put transmitters in the badges of people visiting Hoover. Recordings were made on weekends from Oct. 30, 1993, until the transmitters were found by a visitor on Dec. 19, 1993.
Convicted felon Thomas London, 29, was one of several witnesses to discuss Gangster Disciples "literature"—the rules they were forced to memorize, such as: "Nothing can hurt a duck but its beak," meaning they shouldn't talk.
Gang members who broke rules were subject to varying degrees of "violations," from being punched in the chest to being beaten with baseball bats.
"There was always someone getting violated," said London, who added that the supposed gang truce arranged by the Gangster Disciples was intended to help Hoover personally.
"They said they wanted peace because the Old Man was trying to get paroled," he said.