From Indy Week
by Steaphan Acencio-Vasquez and John H. Tucker
This past August, after a multiyear federal investigation, nine North Carolina men affiliated with the Latin Kings were sentenced for various crimes under the Racketeer Influenced or Corrupt Organizations Act, or “RICO,” a prosecutorial hammer enacted in 1970 in response to Mafia enterprises.
The Latin Kings case drew intense media attention when it went to trial last year. One of the convicted men, Jorge Cornell, aka King Jay, doubled as a community organizer. He had previously campaigned for Greensboro City Council, running on a social justice platform.
In 2007, when he was 16, Raleigh resident Steaphan Acencio-Vasquez, aka King Lio, was convicted of armed robbery and went to state prison. Four years later, a federal grand jury indicted Acencio-Vasquez, Cornell and 12 other men for RICO crimes dating to 2006. Acencio-Vasquez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct or participate in a racketeering enterprise, but he refused to cooperate with prosecutors or testify against others during trial. This past August, after five years in state custody, he was sentenced to three and a half more years in federal prison.
Through email correspondence, Acencio-Vasquez, now 22, opened up about the Latin Kings, prison life and his thoughts on RICO.
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on December 26, 1990. I started out pretty good, but I had a bad anger issue. When I was 6 or 7, I smacked a nun after she hit me with a ruler. I was eating some M&M’s, and the ruler was the punishment. But I was taught to defend myself and my family. (more…)