A reputed gang leader who has claimed his trial was politically motivated was sentenced today to 48 years to life in state prison for shooting a rival gang member four years ago.Before he was sentenced, Marc Candler, 35, whom prosecutors say heads the Acorn gang based in West Oakland’s Acorn housing project, reiterated earlier claims that there were “politics involved” in his case. “(There’s) so much propaganda with the Oakland Police Department and the newspaper and the district attorney’s office,” he said.On Aug. 5, Candler was convicted of charges including attempted murder for shooting Ghost Town gang member Jermel Holloway on June 30, 2006, near the busy intersection of 31st Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.More than 40 shots were fired in the incident, which occurred at about 6:30 p.m., but no one else was injured.Prosecutor John Brouhard said there was a war between the two gangs and argued that Candler was upset at Holloway because Holloway had “disrespected” Candler’s close associate Wendell Stevenson.Holloway survived the shooting and testified at Candler’s preliminary hearing in 2008, but he wasn’t able to testify at Candler’s trial because he was fatally shot on Nov. 29, 2009, at age 28, in the 3000 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, only a block away from where he was shot in the 2006 incident. Candler, who has previous convictions for possessing and selling drugs, admitted, “I’ve done things in my life.”But referring to Holloway, he said, “On my grandmother’s life, I didn’t shoot him.”In addition to attempted murder, Candler was convicted of shooting at an inhabited dwelling, seriously injuring a person with a gun, acting to benefit a criminal street gang, and four counts of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun.Candler’s cousin, 26-year-old Elijah Thomas, was convicted of similar charges –except being an ex-felon — and sentenced to 40 years to life.Candler and Thomas were among 54 suspected Acorn gang members who were arrested on June 17, 2008, in a raid conducted by 400 officers from 17 law enforcement agencies. Police said 41 guns were confiscated in the raid, which was the culmination of a three-month effort called “Operation Nutcracker” that included extensive wiretapping of the reputed gang members.Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown called the Acorn gang members “urban terrorists” after the raid. Candler’s lawyer, James Giller, said during the trial that his client’s associate, Stevenson, might have been the person who shot Holloway in 2006, arguing that he had a motive because he’d been in a confrontation with Holloway.But Stevenson also was unable to testify at the trial because he was shot and killed at a Fremont motel on Nov. 29, 2006, allegedly by two members of a third Oakland gang. He was 26 years old.At the hearing today, Giller said, “Law enforcement in Oakland says Candler is one of the worst guys of all time, but you see another side of him in the audience today with all of his friends supporting him and saying he’s not the worst guy.”Giller also alleged that prosecutor John Brouhard infringed on Candler’s right to a fair trial by engaging in “overkill” by “flooding the jury with gang things” such as photographs of gang members and recordings and movies in which Candler talked about gang life.”It basically ended up being an unfair trial,” said Giller, who requested that Candler be granted a new trial but was denied.But Brouhard said he believes the gang evidence was relevant and probative because “gangs are wreaking havoc on this society.” “The fact that the gang leader (Candler) chose to put himself in front of a video camera and say what the gang is and what is does and did so in frank terms was his decision,” Brouhard said. In one of the videos played at the trial, Candler said, “Acorn is the most dominant force in a 20-mile radius,” and, “It’s all about respect.”Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who sentenced Candler and Thomas, agreed that the gang evidence was relevant.”Just because evidence is harmful to the defendant doesn’t make it unduly prejudicial, ” Reardon said.
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