By Miguel Cruz Tejada
NEW YORK – Then-Dominican gang member of the Almighty Latin Kings Nation gang, Giovanni Lara, now 47, will be released in May of this year after serving 28 years of a life sentence while innocent of the September 6 murder of Temujin Vandergroen 1994, when he was 18 years old in a mugging to steal a victim’s car in Providence, Rhode Island.
Lara achieved his goal after his lawyers filed numerous motions to reduce his sentence and release him, which had been rejected during his nearly three decades in prison.
Yesterday, Wednesday, federal judge John J. McConnell Junior agreed to release Lara at the end of May, including that he must undergo a rehabilitation program.
The magistrate wrote in his order that when Lara committed the robbery and murdered Vandergroen, he was very young and was induced by impulse and immaturity, adding that Lara was not the one who pulled the trigger to kill the victim.
The order will take effect on May 31, 2023. The magistrate cited evolving case law of the United States Supreme Court that recognizes differences in impulsiveness and maturity in the minds of youth and adults in granting Lara’s motion to reduce his sentence to life in prison without parole.
“Mr. Lara was a troubled youth who had experienced gun violence and had begun a path of addiction at the time he committed the crime. His decision to join a gang at a young age, albeit reckless, also reflects much larger social forces than he is,” Judge McConnell wrote in the 40-page order.
“Given the scholarship reports and what the law dictates, nothing in Mr. Lara’s record suggests the need for him to serve more than the 28 years that he has already been in prison,” added the judge.