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Two gang members plead guilty to Boyle Heights firebombings

Two gang members pleaded guilty Thursday to federal civil rights and racketeering violations for firebombing the homes of black residents in Boyle Heights four years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendants’ Latino gang territory.

Josue “Malo” Garibay, 25, and Jose “Lil’ Moe” Saucedo, 24, entered pleas in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who set a sentencing date of Oct. 29. The defendants each face the potential of decades in federal prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In the early morning hours of May 12, 2014, eight members of the Big Hazard street gang, which claims Ramona Gardens as its territory, prepared Molotov cocktails, smashed the windows of four apartments and threw the lighted firebombs into the units, according to court papers.

Three of the four targeted apartments were occupied by black families, including women and children, who were sleeping at the time of the unprovoked attacks.

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Prosecutors said the gang members -- all but one of the eight have pleaded guilty -- violated the civil rights of the families, specifically the constitutional right to live in a home free from “injury, intimidation and interference based on race.”

According to the indictment, purported ringleader Carlos “Rider” Hernandez ordered his co-defendants to meet at a location in Hazard gang territory on May 11, 2014 -- Mother’s Day -- to prepare for the night’s attack. At the meeting, Hernandez allegedly distributed materials to be used during the firebombing, including disguises, gloves and other materials.

Hernandez -- who faces trial in July -- explained that the order for the racially motivated attack had come from the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang that controls the majority of Latino gangs in Southern California, prosecutors allege.

The indictment also alleges that Hernandez told the others to break the victims’ windows, allowing the Molotov cocktails to make a clean entry, ignite the firebombs and throw them into the victims’ units in order to maximize damage. One of the victims, a mother sleeping on her couch with her infant child in her arms, narrowly missed being struck by one of the weapons.

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