The killer of US rapper Nipsey Hussle has been sentenced to spend 60 years behind bars.
The verdict ends a lengthy trial of Eric R. Holder Jr., 33, who was convicted of murdering the Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist in 2019.
Hussle, then 33, was gunned down by outside the Marathon, the clothing store he founded in the South Los Angeles neighbourhood where both men grew up in very similar circumstances.
A year after his death, Hussle was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included DJ Khaled and John Legend.
Jurors also found Holder guilty of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a firearm for gunfire that hit two other men at the scene who survived.
Holder, dressed in orange jail attire, stared straight ahead throughout the proceedings and did not react when the sentence was read.
Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, and Holder had known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin' 60s in South LA. Both were aspiring rappers. But Holder never found the same success as Hussle, who would become a local hero and a national celebrity.
Actor Lauren London, who was Hussle’s partner and the mother of his two young children, did not attend any part of the trial, nor did any of his relatives, and none are expected to give victim impact statements, as often happens at such hearings.
Herman “Cowboy” Douglas, a close friend of Hussle who was standing with him when he was killed and testified during the trial, told the court that the killing was a tremendous loss both for him personally and for the South Los Angeles community where Hussle was a business leader and an inspiration.
“Nipsey was my friend, he was like a son, he was like a dad,” Douglas said. “Our community right now, we lost everything, everything we worked for. One man’s mistake, one man’s action, messed up a whole community.”
Douglas told the judge, “I don’t care what you give this guy. It ain’t about the time. I just want to know why. The world wants to know why. Why someone would do that?”
The sentencing has been delayed in part so defence attorney Aaron Jansen could argue to reduce Holder’s conviction to manslaughter or second-degree murder, which Jacke rejected in December.
The evidence against Holder was so overwhelming — from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure — that his attorney conceded during trial that he had shot Hussle.
But Jansen argued to jurors that the heated circumstances of the shooting meant a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter was merited.
The jury returned with the first-degree murder verdict after about six hours of deliberations.
Jansen said afterward that he was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict, which they planned to appeal.