NC Latin Kings member sentenced to 7 years in federal prison for possession of firearm by felon
Randolph Leif Kilfoil, a Latin Kingmember known as King Paul,received a sentence of seven years infederal prison from US District JudgeThomas D. Schroeder in Winston-Salem todayafter pleading guilty to possession of a firearmby a felon.Dressed in an orange jumpsuit bearing theimprint of the Alamance County DetentionCenter, the 25-year-old Kilfoil stood before thejudge before receiving his sentence.“Basically, whatever you feel is right foryou to do to sentence me is what’s going tohappen,” Kilfoil said. “I need help, and I’mwilling to be helped. That’s what I want to do.I want to go back to New York. That’s basicallyit.”Kilfoil was previously convicted in 2006 offelony conspiracy robbery with a dangerousweapon.In addition to the seven-year active prisonsentence, Schroeder ordered three years ofsupervised release in which Kilfoil is notallowed to associate with other gang members,particularly the Latin Kings, and is not allowedto wear any “gang colors.” After reading a letterfrom Randolph Kilfoil’s brother, Raymond— a bricklayer who promised to help him, tothe best of his ability, to obtain membershipin a union after release — Schroeder said hewould recommend the defendant be assignedto a prison near New York City provided thatit was equipped with mental health treatmentservices.Schroeder said it was with “much sadness”that he noted Kilfoil’s difficult upbringing,which included a mother who was addicted toheroin, a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivedisorder and little work history.Under the plea agreement accepted byKilfoil, the maximum sentence he could havereceived was 10 years.Schroeder indicated he ruled out a morelenient sentence based on the notion that at thetime Kilfoil was caught as a felon with a firearmhe and other members of the group wereharboring a minor. He said he was persuaded“by the need to protect the public from furthercrimes,” partly because Kilfoil had resistedmental health treatment and had used marijuanaup to the day of his arrest.Jorge Cornell, the leader of the NorthCarolina Latin Kings and Kilfoil’s older brother,made hand gestures expressing solidaritywhen the defendant turned to leave the courtroomin handcuffs after the sentence was delivered.Kilfoil rolled his arms, making a clankingnoise with the cuffs, as he walked out, showinglittle emotion.Judge Schroeder embraced a characterizationmade by police and prosecutorsof Kilfoil as the “enforcer” forthe Latin Kings. A MemorandumOpinion and Order signed bySchroeder last November citesthe testimony of officers RomanWatkins, Ronald Sizemore andEric Sigmon of the GreensboroPolice Department’s gang enforcementunit, noting that “the courtcredits their testimony, which itfinds credible.”The Schroeder memorandumstates, “Defendant Kilfoil is a Latin Kingsmember who serves as its ‘enforcer’ or ‘muscleman.’ His job is to ensure that the gang’srules and regulations are followed. Accordingto [gang unit Officer Roman] Watkins, formerand current Latin Kings members havestated their fear of Kilfoil, and members ofarea gangs, including the Sure’os and MS-13,know him as an ‘enforcer’ and a dangerousperson.”After the sentencing, Cornell unequivocallyrejected the characterization of his youngerbrother as an enforcer.“My brother was no enforcer,” Cornell said.“That was just lies that the gang unit put outthere. Where was the physical evidence? Wasthere any paper that says, ‘Members [of theLatin Kings], ex-member, members of MS-13feared for their lives’ because of my brother?No, there wasn’t.”The sentencing was attended by four othermembers of the Latin Kings and three pastors.Kilfoil’s supporters met with public defenderJohn A. Dusenbury Jr. afterwards to expressconcern that due to miscommunication hehad not had sufficient knowledge of the factsto counter the prosecution’s characterizationof the group as having harbored a juvenile atthe time of the arrest. Cornell said Dusenburyhad refused to return his calls and had ignoredefforts to speak with him in the courtroombefore the case was heard.A complaint filed last May with theGreensboro Human Relations Department bythe Latin Kings details how the Rev. NelsonJohnson had tried to broker a constructiveresolution of the police department’s concernthat the group was harboring a runaway.On May 12, 2009, the complaint states,Chief Tim Bellamy told Johnson the gangenforcement unit was looking for CarlosColeman, a 16-year-old “who was on therunaway list from Garner, NC. Rev. Johnsonexplained that Coleman was not a runaway,that he was working at the church and thatRev. Johnson had previously spoken toColeman’s mother, who in turn was going tosend Coleman’s paperwork sothat he may enroll at the A&TMiddle College. According toRev. Johnson, Chief Bellamyasked him to contact Coleman’sparents and ask them to removehim from the runaway list inGarner. Rev. Johnson spoke toColeman’s father, who indicatedhe would do it as soon as he leftwork.”Johnson told Dusenbury todaythat the chief had assured himthat he would not send the gang unit out toarrest Coleman.Chief Bellamy did not respond to a requestfor comment for this story.The gang unit did, in fact, go to the LatinKings’ house on Kirkman Street the next dayto arrest Coleman.As described in the complaint filed withhuman relations, five or six gang unit officersjumped out of cars that had approached at highspeed and ran towards the house with gunsdrawn. Jorge Cornell, Randolph Kilfoil, CarlosColeman, Jose Lugo and Wesley Williamswere sitting on the front porch. Kilfoil reportedlygot up and went inside, not realizing,according to Cornell, that the men with gunswere police officers. Cornell and others saidthat Officer Watkins took a flying leap towardsthe door and kicked it in.The Schroeder memorandum, based onofficers’ testimony, gives a slightly differentaccount of the incident. The police contendthat they were at the Latin Kings house toserve a secured custody order, which requireslaw enforcement to detain a juvenile and returnhim to his parents. The Schroeder memorandumalleges that Watkins, whose badge wasdisplayed around his neck, and the other officersapproached the house, and Watkins commandedseveral times in English and Spanish,“Police. Do not move. Police. Do not move.Remain seated. Police. Do not move.”The contention that Watkins gave commandsin Spanish is puzzling considering that Cornelldoes not speak Spanish, members of the LatinKings typically communicate with each otherin English, and Watkins has had interactionswith the group on numerous occasions.The memorandum states that everyone compliedwith the order except for Kilfoil, who“made eye contact with Watkins, ignored thecommands, and bent over at the waist, quicklyreaching toward his left ankle with his righthand. With this move, Watkins testified, he‘knew something was wrong’ and feared forthe safety of officers and the others there.”Judge Schroeder had denied a motion tosuppress evidence based on the argument thatWatkins’ act of entering the house without awarrant violated the defendant’s constitutionalprotection against unreasonable search and seizure,citing the 1990 case of United States vs.Moses, in which “the Supreme Court held thatpolice officers, incident to an arrest, may conducta precautionary protective sweep of areas‘immediately adjoining the place of arrestfrom which an attack could be immediatelylaunched,’ without probable cause or reasonablesuspicion.”Watkins testified that he pursued Kilfoilinto the house and struggled with the defendantafter observing Kilfoil reach toward hisleft waistband, brought him to the floor andhandcuffed him. After patting Kilfoil down,Watkins said he discovered a Ruger 9 mm pistolwith the serial number filed off.Cornell contends that the police misrepresentedthe time line of events.“He was standing in the doorway,” Cornellsaid of his younger brother. “This so-calledstruggle, by the time the car pulled up, he wasinside the house. He ran into the house. I didn’tknow he went inside to get the gun.”Cornell said that he had not been awarethat his younger brother had a gun in his possessionand acknowledged that it representedpoor judgment but contended that his brother’saction to retrieve the gun stemmed from anadmirable motive. Cornell was shot in the fallof 2008 in what remains an unsolved crime.“He was distraught when I got shot multipletimes,” Cornell said. “That’s my blood. Helooks up to me so much. I remember him tellingme if I died he couldn’t live. You alwayshear people tell you they’ll never let anythinghappen to you if they’re around. That’s theway we treat each other; we’re family.”Cornell described the household where heand his brothers grew up in New York Cityas a “hellhole.” He said his younger brotherwas beaten as a child and placed in psychiatrictreatment instead of being pulled out of anabusive family situation.The prosecution had used Kilfoil’s familyhistory as evidence to construct a portrayal ofthe defendant as a fearsome “enforcer.”“In at least two of Watkins’ several discussionswith him, Kilfoil claimed he tried tokill his parents and expressed pride over theattempt,” the Schroeder memorandum reads.“Watkins confirmed Kilfoil’s claims throughhis interactions with other gang members inGreensboro, who reported the same. Basedon his interviews of several others within andwithout the Latin Kings, Watkins believed thatKilfoil was ‘crazy’ and ‘violent.’”Reflecting after the sentencing on how he had been placed with adoptive parents as he neared his 13 th birthday and did not see his biological family for long stretches of time, Cornell said he feels that he failed his brothers.
“He was abused, he was beaten — a little kid,” Cornell said of Kilfoil. “I know because I was in the house. When my mom was out there doing drugs at night or sleeping through the day, I was watching my brothers. At age 9 I was hustling out on the street. I would go rob peoples’ cars and houses, rob construction sites and sell it at scrap yards. Then I would go down to the diner and get some food to bring back to them.
“They created a monster,” Cornell continued. “The only thing that changed that monster was me. Because he feels the love. Of course, you’re going to protect your family. That’s what Paul did that day — was try to protect his family.”