WES PALM BEACH, Fla. - Futo Charles, the man whom authorities say was the ringleader of the Top 6 gang, was sentenced to 65 years in prison Friday afternoon. A jury spent less than three hours deciding his fate.
Charles was been found guilty of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, possession of ecstasy and possession of marijuana.
15 deputies lined the walls and aisles of the courtroom. The extra security was likely due to the fact that Eguel Geffrard, a witness expected to testify, was shot to death Monday. The Top 6 gang has been characterized as Palm Beach County's most violent gang. It has been connected to 14 homicides and 150 shootings.
30-year-old Charles, who's been arrested more than a dozen times, dropped his head to the table when his mother and sister begged the judge for mercy.
"I am 64 years old. If Futo goes to jail I will never see him again," his mother pleaded.
"Please judge, please give him another chance," his sister begged.
Prosecutors argued the Top 6 gang spread its web of drug violence across Lake Worth and parts of Palm Beach County for years.
"Every time he's been released, he's preyed on the Lake Worth community and it's time to put an end to that, and put an end to people like him," argued prosecutors.
They said he had lived a life of crime and should pay for a life of crime.
"We're asking for the court send a clear message to those who participate in a violent criminal organization," said the state attorney.
In 2007, Charles spoke from jail, and was marked, even then, by police as a gang leader.
"Right now the big talk is Top 6. Something happen in Boynton it's Top 6, Lantana, Top 6, Lake Worth, definitely Top 6," Charles said in the interview.
The Palm Beach County Gang Task Force says a year before that jailhouse interview, members of Top 6 shot and killed a man at the Boynton Beach Mall on Christmas Eve. The victim, Berno Charmalade, was an alleged rival gang member.
"You live by the gun, you die by the gun, and that's what it's all about right now," Charles said.
But Friday in a Palm Beach County courtroom, prosecutors had the final message. "We're asking for the court send a clear message to those who participate in a violent criminal organization," says the state attorney.
The attorneys for Charles said after court that they felt the sentencing was a little harsh.
Wptv.com's Giovanna Drpic contributed to this report.