Former Hollywood nightclub owner Eddie Nash was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison Friday for racketeering and other crimes, including a conspiracy to murder four people in a Laurel Canyon drug den 20 years ago.
Now 72 and in poor health, Nash agreed last month to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. He risked a life prison term if he had been convicted during a trial.
Having spent the last 14 months behind bars for violating bail conditions, Nash could be a free man in less than two years.
U.S. District Judge Carlos R. Moreno approved the plea agreement, calling it "fair and just given the totality of the case and the state of the evidence."
Moreno did not elaborate. His comment appeared to refer to the fact that some potential witnesses have died and some evidence has been lost since Nash was first accused of ordering the grisly bludgeoning slayings in Laurel Canyon in 1981.
Twice in the early 1990s, county prosecutors tried and failed to convict him of ordering the killings in reprisal for a home invasion robbery in which he was forced to beg for his life and surrender $1 million in cash, jewelry and narcotics.
Nash's first trial ended with a hung jury that voted 11-1 for conviction. In his plea agreement, Nash admitted paying a $50,000 bribe to the holdout juror. Nash's second murder trial ended with an acquittal.
The so-called Wonderland murders were included in the government's racketeering case against Nash, along with allegations that he operated a large-scale narcotics distribution ring out of nightclubs he owned from 1975 to 1986.
Nash, whose given name is Adel Nasrallah, also pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges. In addition to his prison term, he was fined $250,000.
He also agreed to cooperate with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies upon request.
Nash was offered an opportunity to address the court before his sentencing. He declined, telling Moreno he had a cold and a sore throat.
Among a handful of spectators attending Friday's sentencing was Marla Miller, 44, whose mother, Joy Miller, was one of the Laurel Canyon murder victims.
"It's hard to watch him walk away from all this with just 37 months in prison," said Miller, holding back tears. "It's very upsetting, but I understand why the prosecutors agreed to it. I only hope he dies before he gets out."
Miller said her mother had nothing to do with robbing Nash, that she was just living at the Laurel Canyon house on Wonderland Avenue with her boyfriend, William Deverell.
A statement accompanying Nash's plea agreement said that Deverell, along with David Lind and Ronald Launius, carried out the robbery at Nash's Studio City home on June 29, 1981.
The next day, the statement said, Nash learned their identities and arranged for an unidentified associate at one of his nightclubs "to get together some people who could get the property back."
According to the statement, Nash and his associate had an understanding that the thieves might have to be killed to recover the stolen items. In addition to Miller, those killed were Deverell, Lind and Launius.
Despite the statement, defense lawyer Donald Re has insisted that Nash's actions had nothing to do with the murders.