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Nipsey Hussle’s accused killer has yet another new lawyer who spoke out Tuesday on the alleged shooter’s behalf and said the long-delayed murder case should go to trial by early December.
Deputy Public Defender Aaron Jansen appeared on behalf of Eric R. Holder Jr. in a Los Angeles courtroom after the previous public defender on the case, Lowynn Y. Young, was appointed to serve as a state judge.
“A lot of the work was done by my predecessor. Hopefully by the end of the year, maybe early December, we can go to trial,” Jansen told the New York Daily News after the court agreed to postpone trial setting yet again and set a follow-up hearing for Sept. 7.
Asked about his plans for Holder’s defense, Jansen declined to get specific but offered some clues.
“He does have a significant mental health history,” he said of his client. “One of the things affecting him (in March 2019) was that his mother had just passed away. He was pretty despondent.”
Holder previously was represented by former O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden, who stepped down citing threats to his family.
The case was later postponed repeatedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the retirement of its previously assigned judge.
Holder has pleaded not guilty to charges claiming he fired multiple rounds into Hussle from two different guns, killing the Grammy-winning rapper on March 31, 2019.
Holder was in the courthouse for the hearing Tuesday but did not appear before Judge H. Clay Jacke because Jansen wanted his handcuffs removed before two TV cameras could start recording.
After conferring with a sheriff’s official, Jacke said he needed more time to consider the handcuffs matter and allowed Jansen to appear without his client present.
“I did not want him portrayed in a way that would be prejudicial to him,” Jansen told the Daily News after the hearing.
“He’s in good spirits,” he said of his client. “He wants me to send him some books. He’s so isolated (in custody). He doesn’t get out of his cell much, only one day a week for a few hours to play basketball alone.”
Holder, 31, recently asked for a break on his “extremely high” $6.5 million bail, claiming he’s not a risk to the public. Jacke denied the request in April.
Young had argued in her failed bail reduction motion shortly before she was appointed to the bench that Holder’s prior criminal history, which included a 2012 felony conviction for carrying a concealed firearm, was “insignificant.”
“Based on the isolated nature of this case, Mr. Holder does not pose a risk of harm to the public,” her motion argued.
“Even a reduction of bail down to $4 million should satisfy any concerns by the court and the District Attorney,” Young’s motion said.
The filing argued Holder wasn’t a flight risk because he doesn’t hold a passport and has significant family ties to the community, including a father who’s a government worker.
Prosecutors say Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, arrived at his Marathon Clothing store at the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles “unannounced” the day of the shooting and was talking with friends when Holder appeared.
Holder allegedly walked up to Hussle and engaged the “Victory Lap” rapper in a four-minute conversation that “had something to do with Mr. Asghedom accusing Mr. Holder of snitching, which in the gang world is a very serious offense,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney told a grand jury in 2019, according to a transcript obtained by the Daily News.
“They got some paperwork on you. I haven’t read the paperwork, but ... You got to watch your back,” Hussle allegedly told Holder, referring to some type of police report or court document alleging Holder had “snitched,” witness Herman Douglas, who worked for Hussle and was with him during the conversation, testified.
“Nipsey was basically looking out for him, telling him that, you know, ‘I haven’t read it, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but you need to address it.’ That’s what Nipsey was doing,” Douglas told the grand jurors.
After the short conversation, Holder left the scene, ate some chili cheese fries and returned a short time later, according to testimony. He walked up to Hussle and several other people and opened fire, shooting Hussle in his head and torso, prosecutors say.
“Mr. Holder was firing with two different handguns, trading (shots) between his right and his left hand,” McKinney told the grand jury.
Surveillance footage showed the shooting play out in broad daylight, with two people falling to the ground and bystanders fleeing for their lives.
Holder allegedly fled the scene with a woman who later turned herself in for questioning, claiming she was confused about what happened when Holder returned to the car and ordered her to drive or be slapped. Holder was arrested a short time later amid a manhunt by police.
The grand jury indicted Holder on charges including one count of murder for Hussle and two counts of attempted murder for the bullets that struck bystanders Kerry Lathan and Shermi Villanueva.
Hussle, 33, grew up in South Los Angeles and was known for investing his time and money back in the community.
He won two posthumous Grammy Awards in January 2020 for his songs “Racks in the Middle” and “Higher.”