Former Mexican Mafia hit man turned informant set to be released on parole

LOS ANGELES -- A former Mexican Mafia hit man who was sentenced to life in prison will be paroled in a matter of days unless Gov. Jerry Brown intervenes.

Rene Enriquez, 52, is a convicted murderer who has written extensively about the years he spent in the Mexican Mafia. In a YouTube clip, Enriquez promoted one of the books he wrote while behind bars.

He is currently serving two life sentences in state prison, but that hasn't stopped him from getting out to talk about his time as a hit man.

He is also a regular speaker at law enforcement seminars. Last month, Enriquez was the guest speaker at a private reception in downtown Los Angeles.

The LAPD came under fire for providing security for the event. The police department's role in the event remains under review.

Over the past several years, law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles and Orange counties have relied on Enriquez for training purposes or as an expert witness.

Enriquez's willingness to share information with law enforcement was cited as a reason for the state parole board to grant his release. Despite convictions for two murders and a gang rape, Enriquez could go free by Sunday.

On Tuesday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had little to say about whether or not Enriquez should be set free.

"I don't involve myself in matters of parole. I don't know the standards that they use," Beck said.

But in 2010, Beck wrote to Enriquez and thanked him for participating in a training video. When asked if the letter might be interpreted as an endorsement of Enriquez, Beck said that isn't the case.

A member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department wrote letters to the parole board on Enriquez's behalf, but the department said the letters were not authorized by command staff

"If any individual employee were to make a recommendation regarding this status or release, it was not done with the approval of the department or the sheriff," said spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

Prosecutors in Orange County also wrote letters to the parole board on Enriquez's behalf. He's been behind bars since 2003. He could be set free as early as Sunday at midnight, but it is more likely he could be set free sometime next week.

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