The man who murdered rapper Nipsey Hussle outside the musician's South Los Angeles clothing store was sentenced to 60 years to life in state prison Wednesday.
Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke rejected the defense's request for the lower term of 25 years to life in state prison for Eric Ronald Holder Jr., saying he believed the sentence balances what he was told about the 33-year-old defendant's history and the "devastation" that was caused by the shooting.
Holder was convicted July 6 of first-degree murder for the March 31, 2019, killing of the rapper, whose real name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom. He was also found guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm involving two other men who were injured in the shooting and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Jurors also found true allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on one of the two surviving victims.
The judge — who refused in December to reduce Holder's conviction to second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter — sentenced Holder to 25 years to life on the murder conviction along with a consecutive 25-year-to-life sentence on a gun enhancement on that count, as well as an additional 10-year term involving one of the other victims.
Deputy District Attorney John McKinney noted in his sentencing memorandum that Holder "used two handguns during the commission of his crimes" and "inflicted 11 gunshot wounds with no less than 10 separately fired shots into the body of Asghedom from close range" and that he "kicked Asghedom in the head while he lay dying on the ground."
Defense attorney Aaron Jansen said his client is already the subject of death threats and that "his life in prison is going to be hell for as long as it lasts." He detailed a history of a "terrible descent into mental illness" and read a letter from the defendant's father, who wrote that his son was diagnosed with auditory schizophrenia after his first mental health episode at the age of 19.
"I know my son, Eric Jr., would have never committed such a heinous crime if he did not have auditory schizophrenia," Eric Holder Sr. wrote in the letter, in which he pleaded for his son to be sent to a locked mental health facility.
The judge said he would recommend that the defendant be housed in a facility that can address his mental health needs.
The prosecutor told jurors during the trial that the killing was "cold-blooded" and "calculated," saying Holder had "quite a bit of time for premeditation and deliberation" before returning to the parking lot near Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard where the rapper was shot 10 to 11 times.
"Saying, `You're through,' before shooting him and shooting him a number of times … kicking him in the head, that's personal … What makes this murder first-degree is premeditation and deliberation," McKinney told jurors.
Holder's attorney conceded at the start of the trial that his client had "shot and killed" the rapper. But he said the crime in which his client fired with one gun in each hand occurred in the "heat of passion."
Holder had "no cooling-off period" after being "called publicly a snitch by someone as famous as Nipsey Hussle" nine minutes and 10 seconds earlier, the defense lawyer told jurors.
Holder's attorney also contended that the case was "overcharged from the beginning," and that the correct charge against Holder involving the rapper's slaying should have been voluntary manslaughter — an option the judge told jurors they could consider.
Jurors heard eight days of testimony during the trial, which was delayed for a day following what Holder's attorney said was an attack on Holder in jail.
Jansen said his client lost consciousness after being attacked in a jail holding cell with other inmates while waiting to be taken to court. He subsequently underwent an MRI and required three staples to the back of his head, also suffering a swollen left eye and swelling on the left side of his face, according to the attorney.
Holder did not testify in his own defense.
He has remained behind bars since his arrest two days after the shooting. His attorney told jurors that he surrendered himself at a mental health clinic in Bellflower.
After Hussle's death, thousands of people were on hand in April 2019 for a service in his honor, with singer Stevie Wonder and rapper Snoop Dogg among those paying tribute to him.
In a letter that was read during the service, former President Barack Obama wrote, "While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going."
The rapper-entrepreneur was posthumously honored with two Grammy Awards in 2020 for best rap performance for "Racks in the Middle" and for best rap/sung performance for "Higher."
Community activist Najee Ali told the judge that the rapper was a "hero to many young people" and that his murder has had a "devastating and tremendous impact."
"He has never apologized, never shown any remorse for what he did," Ali said of the defendant.
Herman Douglas said the community relied on the rapper.
"… The whole world still wants to know why," he told the judge about the motive for the killing.
After the hearing ended, Douglas began singing, "Hit the road, Jack," prompting the judge to instruct courtroom bailiffs to "get him out."
Holder's attorney filed a notice of appeal on his client's behalf.
Jansen told reporters outside court that his client — who has been behind bars for almost four years — will first be eligible for parole under the state's elderly parole program after he turns 50