The former leader of a Long Island chapter of the MS-13 street gang was sentenced Friday to more than 30 years in prison for killing a Central Islip man he mistakenly thought was a member of a rival gang and for another shooting.
Jose Gustavo Orellana-Torres, 28, the former leader of the gang's Coronados chapter, had pleaded guilty in February to racketeering in the murder of Dexter Acheampong, 24, in May 2009, and the attempted murder of an unidentified person in Roosevelt that July.
The Coronados chapter is centered in Brentwood but also has members scattered in other areas, mainly in Far Rockaway, officials said.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco imposed the sentence of 30 years, 5 months -- the maximum allowed under the terms of a plea bargain -- citing the callousness of the crimes and the fear the gang had sent through the community.
Orellana-Torres and his attorney, John Burke, of Brooklyn, asked for a lesser sentence on the grounds that he had become a devout Christian since his arrest several years ago.
"I want to say I am very sorry for everything I have done," Orellana-Torres told the judge. "I apologize to the family of Acheampong . . . It's a very hard blow . . . I ask you to have pity on me, to give me a chance."
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham asked that the judge impose the maximum punishment. He said Orellana-Torres went "hunting for rival gang members."
Durham said Orellana-Torres didn't know the victim, who wasn't a gang member, but Orellana-Torres still fired four shots at Acheampong as he ran for his life, striking him twice in the back.
"Show the mercy he showed Mr. Acheampong," Durham told the judge.
Officials have said that Orellana-Torres assumed that because Acheampong was black he was a member of the rival Bloods street gang.
In imposing the sentence, Bianco called the killing "a brutal, cold-blooded murder."
"It is hard to imagine a more wanton disregard for human life than shooting a person in the back because the color of his skin makes you think he may be a rival gang member," New York FBI director George Venizelos said in a statement Friday.