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Former Hoover gang member found with stash of guns, ammo earns ‘very lenient sentence,’ judge says

OregonLive.com 4/12/2022 Maxine Bernstein, oregonlive.com

A former member of the Hoover gang found with a stash of eight loaded guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition two years ago earned a prison sentence Monday far below federal guidelines.

The judge, his defense lawyer and the prosecutor agreed that Javontae Nabien Gibson deserved acknowledgement for the progress he’s made to separate himself from the street gang that has operated in Portland for decades.

U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut sentenced the 28-year-old to three years in prison, calling it a “very lenient” punishment for a gun crime at a time when “the community is dying from gun violence.”

The city’s 92 killings last year marked a record number of homicides for Portland. So far this year, the city is on pace to match or exceed that number, having recorded 29 homicides, most from shootings.

“You’ve given me a high degree of confidence and hope that with the right mentorship, you can change your life,” Immergut told Gibson. “I’m hoping you prove me right.”

The sentencing parameters, considering Gibson’s criminal history, called for a prison term ranging from seven years to nine and a half years for his latest offense, being a felon with guns.

“I was super deep in it,” Gibson said of his ties to the Hoovers. “The changes I’ve made are huge. I’m surprised myself.”

Federal agents and local officers raided Gibson’s apartment in August 2020 as part of a racketeering investigation into the Hoovers.

Prosecutors allege the Hoover gang, commonly known as “the Hoovers,’’ is a criminal street enterprise whose members engaged in acts of violence involving murder, assault, robbery, sex trafficking and drug trafficking and operated in Oregon, California and Washington. Former Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams called the Hoover gang “one of the most prolific and violent gangs here in the city of Portland.’’

Gibson pleaded guilty in November.

His longtime mentor, Samuel Thompson, told the judge that he’s known Gibson since he was 12 and has been meeting with him twice a week to mentor him.

Gibson has volunteered at the annual Good in the Hood multicultural festival and participates in a school backpack giveaway and a Thanksgiving Day food drive, said Thompson, now a restorative justice specialist for Portland Public Schools.

Gibson is working full-time in construction and is committed to being a father to his young children, Thompson said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lewis Burkhart recommended a sentence of three years and five months for Gibson, saying he had done much to forge a path away from the Hoovers even as some friends and family members remain involved.

Burkhart, though, noted the alarming aspects of Gibson’s crime, saying his stash of six loaded handguns, including one with an obliterated serial number, plus two rifles was “incredibly scary.”

Gibson, who went by the street names “Tae Groove” or “T.G.” for short, wasn’t shy about broadcasting the firepower he had, posting photos of his guns and ammunition on his Snapchat page, according to prosecutors.

One post captured by investigators showed two guns and two magazines of ammunitionwith the caption: “WHATS BETTER THAN 1 RUGER 57 TWO OF EM HAD TO GRAB ANOTHER ONE.”

Gibson has convictions for two prior shootings - a 2014 conviction stemming from a drive-by shooting outside a nightclub in Clark County in which Gibson was driving the car when his accomplice fired at a crowd of rival gang members, and in 2015 for unlawful use of a firearm in Multnomah County.

Yet Burkhart said he believed Gibson had the guns largely for self-defense “against former enemies.”

None of the guns were tied to any shootings in the city, Burkhart said.

“Defendant’s efforts to leave the Hoovers, obtain a job and live a normal life are commendable given his well-known history,” Burkhart wrote to the court.

Gibson fell out with the Hoovers around 2015, prosecutors said.

Gibson told the judge that “the click came” to him to change when his first son was born.

“You’ve got to do something different or you’re going to die or end up in jail for a long time,” he said he told himself.

The guns seized in this case were for “protecting myself,” not to hurt anybody, he said.

“I don’t want the accomplishments I’ve made to be diminished” with the new case, Gibson told the judge.

Defense attorney Andrew Kohlmetz asked Immergut to sentence Gibson to two years in prison.

He said Gibson will continue to do well with mentorship and that Gibson longs to move away from Portland.

“He, too, recognizes Portland is a very small town, and he has quite a level of notoriety among certain communities here and does hope to leave,” Kohlmetz said.

Gibson’s sister, cousins, stepfather, his children’s mother and their young children attended the sentencing hearing.

A federal probation officer urged a longer sentence of four years and nine months.

But Immergut split the difference between the recommendations.

The judge asked Thompson what he believes will help men like Gibson cut their gang ties, stop carrying guns and live a productive life.

Thompson told her that it takes older men who are familiar with the challenges that young men face to show them positive alternatives.

He said he meets every week with Gibson to be a sounding board and talk about fatherhood, work and mental health.

“The more that we teach accountability, responsibility, conflict resolution, community building, relationship building, supportive relationships — the more that we encourage that amongst our young men, the better the results will be,” Thompson said.

It’s easy, he said, “to get in trouble and to not do things the right way.”

But to commit to not falling back into old gang ways “that is a testament to (Gibson’s) character,” Thompson said.

Immergut ordered that Gibson be placed on three years of supervised release after his prison term. He can’t associate with any known gang members unless he gets prior approval from his probation officer, she said.

Immergut also ordered that Gibson be assigned a mentor as soon as he gets out of custody.

Not knowing what job Thompson will have then, Immergut didn’t require that Thompson continue to serve in that role for Gibson.

But Thompson told her: “I will be with him, hands on, without a court order.”

The judge didn’t allow Gibson to surrender at a future date to start serving his prison term, concerned about reports from a pretrial services officer who spoke of “officer safety issues’' at Gibson’s home and inappropriate associations he’s had recently. The judge nor the officer provided further details on the nature of those concerns.

As two deputy U.S. marshals prepared to take Gibson into custody in the courtroom, his children shouted from the public gallery, “We love you daddy!” and “Where are you going? Are you going to jail?”

“Love you all,” Gibson told his children, family and friends before he was escorted out.

— Maxine Bernstein

Email at mbernstein@oregonian.com; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian   

©2022 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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