Former gang leader 'Big Evil' takes murder charge plea deal

Former Gang Leader Pleads No Contest to Murder
Former Gang Leader Pleads No Contest to Murder Photo credit Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former gang leader who was known as "Big Evil" and was initially sentenced to death for the slayings of two rivals more than 30 years ago pleaded no contest Thursday to one of the murders in a plea deal that may result in him eventually being paroled from state prison.

Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe sentenced Cleamon Demone Johnson, 55, to 25 years to life in state prison in connection with his no contest plea to first-degree murder for the Aug. 5, 1991, killing of Payton Beroit.

Five other counts against Johnson, including four counts of murder, were dismissed as a result of the plea.

Johnson and co-defendant Michael "Fat Rat" Allen were initially convicted and sentenced to death for the killings of Beroit and Donald Ray Loggins, who were shot three times each while sitting in a white Toyota Supra parked outside a car wash in the 8700 block of South Central Avenue in South Los Angeles.

But the California Supreme Court reversed their convictions, finding in a December 2011 ruling that a judge erred by discharging a juror during deliberations in the guilt phase of the trial for prejudging the case and relying on evidence that was not presented at trial.

Johnson was returned to Los Angeles County jail in January 2012 for a lengthy series of proceedings that included a non-jury trial in which Rappe found him guilty of a 1992 murder. That conviction wound up being set aside because of sentencing issues involving how many credits he should receive, with Johnson instead pleading no contest to Beroit's killing.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Murphy called the plea deal a "sure thing," noting that the prosecution would have been "rolling the dice" with a "very old case" if the case involving all five killings had gone to trial.

Authorities alleged that Allen agreed to carry out the killings of Beroit and Loggins after Johnson asked his fellow gang members who wanted to shoot Beroit and that Johnson gave Allen the assault weapon used in the slayings.

"He's not a victim of anything except his own evil," Superior Court Judge Charles Horan said at the December 1997 sentencing for Johnson and Allen, in which they were sentenced to death. That judge dismissed Johnson's assertion that he was convicted by a "lynch mob" group of police and federal agents.

Allen was found dead last year in his jail cell while awaiting retrial.

The coroner's office subsequently determined that the 49-year-old inmate died of sudden cardiac death and atherosclerotic heart disease, according to coroner's records.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images