this day in crime history: may 29, 1979

On this date in 1979, federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated outside his home in San Antonio, TX. Wood, who was nicknamed “Maximum John” due to the harsh sentences he handed out for drug offenses, was the first federal judge assassinated in the 20th century. An anonymous tip led police to ex-convict Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Harrelson had been hired to kill Wood by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra, who was due to be appear before Judge Wood in a narcotics case. At trial, Harrelson claimed he hadn’t killed Judge Wood, but had taken credit for it in order to collect money from Chagra. The jury didn’t buy it, and Harrelson was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to two life terms and died of a heart attack in the federal supermax prison in Colorado in 2007. Chagra’s brother Joe received a 10 year sentence for his role in arranging the hit. Chagra’s wife also received a prison sentence for her role delivering the payout money. Jamiel Chagra, who was represented by attorney Oscar Goodman (who from 1999 to 2011, served as mayor of Las Vegas), was acquitted when his brother refused to testify against him. Chagra would later stipulate to his role in the murder in a plea bargain designed to get his wife, who was suffering from ovarian cancer, an early release from prison. His wife passed away before she could be released. Jamiel Chagra himself would eventually wind up in federal witness protection. He died of cancer in 2008, at the age of 63.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Charles Harrelson

Wikipedia – Jamiel Chagra

Denver PostHarrelson wrote of life at Supermax 

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