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Gang Member Known as City's Most Violent Is Sentenced to Death

Crime: Co-defendant of the man called 'Big Evil' gets same penalty in murder of two men at South-Central carwash.

December 13, 1997|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN | Special To The Times

Cleamon "Big Evil" Johnson, described by police detectives and FBI agents as the city's most violent gang member, was sentenced to death Friday, along with co-defendant Michael "Fat Rat" Allen, for the 1991 murders of two men at a South-Central Los Angeles carwash.

Superior Court Judge Charles E. Horan, who characterized Johnson as "a coldblooded and cunning murderer . . . who was the victim of his own evil," agreed with a jury that had recommended the death penalty Sept. 30.

Horan rejected defense appeals for a retrial and a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Authorities contend that on Aug. 5, 1991, Johnson ordered Allen to get an Uzi submachine gun and "serve" two men at a carwash at Central Avenue and 88th Street.

Allen, 25, shot to death Donald Ray Loggins and Payton Beroit in broad daylight in front of more than a dozen witnesses, according to authorities. Loggins and Beroit were not gang members, but lived in rival gang turf on the east side of Central Avenue.

Because of Johnson's fearsome reputation, no witnesses would step forward initially, investigators said. In 1994, a multi-agency task force was formed to bring 'Big Evil' Johnson and his gang, the 89 Family Bloods, to justice.

"I consider the task force a success now that Evil has been convicted," said Los Angeles Police Det. Rosemary Sanchez, a member of the task force. "Bye-bye Evil," she said in a court hallway.

Johnson, 30, who authorities say killed at least a dozen people during his reign as the 89 Family's shot-caller, declared his innocence after he was sentenced.

He called police a "lynch mob" and vowed to have his conviction overturned.

"It was obvious by their actions that their will was to get me," said the powerfully built Johnson. "So be it. But I too have a will, a strong will, that will prevail, and you can best believe I shall find a way."

Much of Johnson's defense lawyer's argument for a retrial centered on the key testimony of Freddie Jelks, who has his own murder case pending. Attorney Richard Lasting contended that some type of deal was made with Jelks in exchange for his testimony against Johnson, who Los Angeles police detectives say is notorious for killing witnesses.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Lentz Synder adamantly denied that any deal was made with Jelks.

In a recent interview at the Los Angeles County Jail, Johnson said he has been "in worse places than San Quentin."

When asked what could be worse then death row, he laughed. "Having a .45 pointed at you and fired."

Johnson is also the defendant in another murder trial scheduled for February.

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