Man Sentenced To More Than 4 Years In Prison On Drug Charges
EDMUND H. MAHONY
November 21, 2009
At just 20 years old, authorities say, Julio "J" Bonilla of Hartford has an extraordinary record of violence.
Over four months last year, he was involved in at last three armed attacks, or attempted attacks, authorities say. In July 2008, an informant told authorities Bonilla drove a truckload of armed gang members on a raid that left six wounded — including a 13-year old — on Affleck Street in Hartford. In September, authorities say, a heavy police presence prevented his attempt to, in gang parlance, "Swiss cheese" a rival elsewhere in the city. In November, he was shot in the leg during a gunfight at a baby shower in West Hartford.
Friday, Bonilla, who has been in and out of prison since he dropped out of school and was first incarcerated as a juvenile, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 4¼ years in prison on drug charges in a case that has attracted the attention of police agencies that monitor gang activity in Hartford.
In legal papers filed in court in connection with Bonilla's sentencing, federal prosecutors said that he is a member of the Latin Kings gang and that two of the violent incidents in which he was involved were retaliation or attempted retaliation against members of the rival Los Solidos gang. In the 1990s, the two gangs turned parts of Hartford into war zones in a battle over drug territory before being largely eliminated in a concentrated law enforcement crack down.
A similar task force of Hartford police, state police and FBI agents charged Bonilla and 24 others in May following an investigation targeting Latin King cocaine and heroin trafficking in Hartford. Over nearly a year, investigators arranged under cover drug purchases, collected information from informants, and recorded multiple telephone conversations.
Investigators concluded that the Latin Kings are active in Hartford but lack a defined hierarchy.
"The investigation further determined that the [Latin Kings] in Hartford was a mostly fractured and disorganized entity with no clear and established leadership," the document said. "For some members ... their association with the [Latin Kings] and reputation as established Latin King members allowed them to control the drug supply in certain geographical areas."
Bonilla was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute and distributing cocaine. Federal prosecutors said he and the Latin Kings obtained cocaine from Puerto Rico and pushed it through a network of dealers around the city.
A man described as a key Latin King drug supplier, Hedric Veliez, was arrested in April 2009 after accepting a kilogram of cocaine by mail at his apartment in Vernon. In May 2009, authorities raided a Latin King drug packaging and distribution center at 60 Seymour St. in Hartford.
Prosecutors said Bonilla, who lived on Brownell Avenue, controlled the Latin King drug trade around Hartford's Barry Square.
Drugs apparently were the cause of repeated exchanges of gunfire between Latin Kings and Los Solidos during the summer of 2008, prosecutors said. Bonilla was a target on July 10, 2008.
On July 16, 2008, prosecutors said they learned from an informant, he retaliated. He traded crack cocaine for the use of a drug addict's pick up truck and drove to an area frequented by a Los Solidos member on Affleck Street. The Latin Kings call vehicles borrowed after a payment of cocaine "half a crack," federal prosecutors wrote in legal papers filed in court. At Affleck Street, "several" Latin Kings concealed in the truck bed jumped up and opened fire.
"The intended target on Affleck Street was a certain member of the Los Solidos gang," prosecutors said in their legal papers. "There were at least six victims in the shooting on Affleck Street, including a 13-year old boy."
In late September 2008, authorities listening in on one of Bonilla's telephone conversations learned that the Latin Kings had spotted a Solido called "Scarface" driving a white Dodge Charger. Bonilla told an unidentified associate to grab a gun. Authorities flooded the area with uniformed police officers and made a routine traffic stop on the Dodge Charger.
"It appeared that the large police presence in the neighborhood seemed to deter the anticipated violence," prosecutors wrote.
In September 2008, a Hartford police detective had Bonilla under surveillance as he attended a baby shower at a West Hartford social hall, according to prosecution legal papers.
"The detective heard a verbal altercation between several individuals in the driveway of the hall and heard a female voice yelling, 'Julio, Julio, no, Julio, stop!' The detective then heard numerous gunshots," prosecutors wrote.
The detective called for reinforcements and Bonilla was apprehended as he limped away with a bullet wound to a lower leg, concealed in the middle of a group of women, prosecutors wrote.
Bonilla claimed he was innocent bystander and told police he had "never, ever handled a gun," prosecutors wrote. A forensic investigation detected Bonilla's DNA on the magazine inserted into a .40-caliber handgun discarded at the scene. Forensics testing could not eliminate him as the source of DNA found on the gun's grip, prosecutors wrote.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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