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Don’t bother trying to write Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) New York City chapter founder Luis Felipe as he serves his life-plus-45-year prison sentence. At least don’t expect an answer from him.
When Felipe, 33 years old at the time of his conviction, was sentenced in federal court for an 18-count racketeering conviction that included several murders and attempted murders, the judge not only insisted that Felipe serve his time at the Bureau of Prison’s supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, but placed almost unheard of restrictions on Felipe’s contact with the outside world.
At his 1997 sentencing in New York, Felipe, a/k/a King Blood, received no sympathy from the federal judge, the Hon. John S. Martin Jr.
“I am someone who does not believe in the death penalty, but if this was a case where if the death penalty were available, I would impose it,” Martin told Felipe.
Martin’s sentence, which is as close to a living death as possible, directed that Felipe spend the rest of his days in solitary confinement and included the unheard-of order that Felipe not be allowed write letters to, or be visited by, anyone except his lawyer and close relatives.
The sentence surprised even federal prosecutors and prompted a shocked and tearful Felipe to tell the judge that he was being sentenced “to die day by day.”
“You are telling me nobody can write to me, nobody can send money to me, nobody can care about me no more,” Felipe told the judge.
Felipe spends 23 hours each day in his 7-foot by 11-foot concrete cell that provides a 4-inch wide window to an interior courtyard. The slit allows him to see the sky, but probably not the magnificent mountains surrounding the prison. Even by looking out that courtyard, Felipe is unlikely to see any other inmates. The cells are nearly soundproof, which limits his ability to hear anything from outside of his 80-square-foot world. He eats his meals in his cell, showers there and can watch closed circuit television that features only self-improvement courses and religious broadcasts.
(Florence ADMAX Inmate Handbook — includes cell drawings.)
After his transfer from the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York to Florence ADMAX, he requested that he be allowed to submit drawings and some of his poems to prisoner-centered publications. Judge Martin refused his request.
In 1999, Martin loosened the restrictions somewhat by allowing Felipe to talk with other prisoners like the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. He was also allowed to converse with the late Timothy McVeigh who was executed in 2001. Felipe, however, reportedly protested his draconian restrictions and has nothing to say to Kaczynski, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
“I just don’t want to speak to those bombers,” Felipe said in a letter to his attorney.
To a great extent, Felipe brought Martin’s restrictions down on himself.
Felipe arrived in the United States in 1980 from Cuba as part of the Mariel boat lift. He had previously been a prisoner in Castro’s prisons, and it seems unlikely that Felipe attempted to go straight once he came to the United States.
Felipe foundeds the New York chapter of the Almighty Latin King Nation in 1986. While the Latin Kings and their sister organization, the Latin Queens, are essentially a street gang, the organization that was formed in Chicago was created to “promote a sense of Hispanic identity among prison inmates” and to organize Caribbean Hispanics serving jail sentences. In opening a branch in New York, Felipe recruited current and former prison inmates.
“The aim of the organization was ostensibly to protect Hispanics from ethnic discrimination at the hands of other inmate organizations and hostile prison authorities,” the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in upholding both Felipe’s federal conviction and sentence.
According to the federal government, in addition to promoting Hispanic identity of prisoners, those members on the outside engage in acts of violence, armed robbery, narcotics trafficking, and murder. A small portion of the ill-gotten proceeds go to support relatives of imprisoned members, depending on the member’s status in the gang.
Convicted of manslaughter and serving a nine-year stretch in New York’s Collins Correctional Facility for the killing of a girlfriend during a drunken rage, Felipe, like many other gang leaders, continued to direct the activities of his gangsters on the outside.
He had little trouble communicating with the outside world. In early April 1993 while at Collins, New York State Department of Correctional Services officials learned that he had violated prison regulations by attempting to kite letters to an inmate at another facility. In this sense, kiting is prison slang for using the underground prisoner-to-prisoner interoffice mail system to avoid prison rules preventing correspondence to persons on a prisoner’s Negative Contact list (Which includes every other convict in the system).
n.b. Once your faithful correspondent used the term “kite” at work to refer to interoffice mail, which required a translation. This was after he had to explain to his boss what a “burner” phone was.
From the letters officials learned that Felipe was the leader of the Latin Kings, an organization named by NY Corrections as its third-largest prison gang. One of the kites stated that an unidentified person whom Felipe believed had betrayed the Latin Kings “deserved to die.”
When law enforcement officials discovered that being behind bars barely inconvenienced Felipe, he was transferred to the state’s maximum security prison at Attica. There, officials discovered that Felipe was directing plans to murder. One of his letters, which were monitored by corrections officials contained orders to carry out the homicides of six individuals: William Cartegena, Ismael Rios, Rafael Gonzalez, Margie Carderon, Ronnie Gonzalez, and Pedro Rosario.
In May 1993, Felipe began to view fellow Latin King Rafael Gonzalez, a/k/a “King Mousey,” as a threat to his leadership and therefore enlisted William Cartegena, a/k/a “King Lil Man,” a friend and subordinate leader of the Kings, to kill him. Five Kings went to a building where Gonzalez was supposed to be, and there shot and killed Gonzalez’s brother-in-law, Victor Hirschman. They fired shots at Gonzalez too, and although they seriously wounded him, they did not succeed in killing him.
Cartegena’s failure earned him a “green light,” or death sentence from the gang. In September 1993 Cartegena was choked to death by several Latin Kings who thereafter dismembered him and removed his Latin Kings’ tattoo from his body. Later that same month, after the Kings who were selected to murder Margie Carderon proved unable to shoot and kill her, they decided to burn the apartment building where she lived. Although Carderon escaped the fire, two of her neighbors suffered severe burns.
Next, Felipe ordered the murders of Ismael Rios, a/k/a “King J.R.,” and Ronnie Gonzalez, a/k/a “King Ronnie,” in September 1993. Latin Kings gunned down Rios and attempted to kill Gonzalez, who ran away and escaped unharmed.
Pedro Rosario was considered an enemy of the Latin Kings because whilejailed at Rikers Island, he slashed several ALKQN members. In return, he was knifed, but survived.
At his five-week trial in 1996, based on more than 60 letters written by Felipe and the testimony of many of his targets, Felipe was convicted of 18 counts of racketeering and murder.
It was at his sentencing for these crimes that Martin placed the restrictions on Felipe.
“I do not do it out of my sense of cruelty,” the judge said at the sentencing. Martin pointed out that most of Felipe’s targets were ALKN members themselves and therefore it was imperative to limit Felipe’s correspondence with his former gang.
When the Second Circuit upheld the restrictions, the court found “at least at this time, there are no readily available alternative means of protecting people from appellant’s wrath.”
Spanish-language interview with King Luis Felipe…Entrevista en espanol con el Rey Luis Felipe