LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man convicted of gunning down rapper Nipsey Hussle in 2019 is likely to get life in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Jurors in July found Eric R. Holder Jr., 32, guilty of the first-degree murder of the 33-year-old Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist outside the clothing store Hussle founded, the Marathon, in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where both men grew up.
Holder was also convicted of two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a firearm for gunfire that hit two other men at the scene who survived.
The sentencing has been delayed in part so defense attorney Aaron Jansen could move for Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke to reduce Holder’s conviction to manslaughter or second-degree murder, which the judge rejected in December.
Jacke will have a broad range of possibilities when he sentences Holder at the Thursday morning hearing, but the murder conviction alone carries a term of 25 years to life. The other convictions, and special sentencing circumstances that jurors found true, make it almost certain Holder will spend the rest of his life in prison. Holder was not eligible for the death penalty.
“We hope that there is some resounding peace in the fact that his killer will be in prison likely for the rest of his life,” the lead prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney John McKinney, said after the verdict.
Actor Lauren London, who was Hussle’s partner and the mother of his two young children, did not attend any part of the trial, nor did any of his relatives, and none are expected to give victim impact statements, as often happens at such hearings.
The evidence against Holder was so overwhelming — from eyewitnesses to surveillance cameras from local businesses that captured his arrival, the shooting and his departure — that his attorney conceded during trial that he had shot Hussle.
But Jansen argued to jurors that the heated circumstances of the shooting meant a lesser verdict of voluntary manslaughter was merited.
The jury returned with the first-degree murder verdict after about six hours of deliberations.
Jansen said afterward that he was “deeply disappointed” in the verdict, which they planned to appeal.
He did manage a minor victory for Holder by securing the attempted voluntary manslaughter convictions where prosecutors had sought attempted murder verdicts.
The sentencing, originally scheduled for September but postponed at the request of the defense, brings an end to a legal saga that lasted more than three years and a trial that was often delayed because of the pandemic.
Hussle, whose legal name is Ermias Asghedom, and Holder had known each other for years growing up as members of the Rollin’ 60s in South LA. Both were aspiring rappers. But Holder never found the same success as Hussle, who would become a local hero and a national celebrity.
A chance meeting outside the Marathon, in a shopping center Hussle owned, led to a conversation the two men had about rumors that Holder had been acting as an informant for authorities. Jansen argued that being publicly accused of being a “snitch” by a person as prominent as Hussle brought on a “heat of passion” in Holder that prompted the shooting.
A woman who was with Holder that day took a photo with Hussle before becoming Holder’s unwitting getaway driver, was a key witness for the prosecution.
After years of devoted work that won him underground acclaim — his nickname was both a play on the name of comedian Nipsey Russell and a nod to the hustle the future hip-hop star showed in making music and selling CDs — Hussle had just released his major-label debut album and earned his first Grammy nomination when he was killed.
A year after his death, he was mourned at a memorial at the arena then known as Staples Center, and celebrated in a performance at the Grammy Awards that included DJ Khaled and John Legend.