Image: Jesse James Hollywood
Rafael Maldonado  /  AP
Jesse James Hollywood is seen in a holding cell in Santa Barbara, Calif., on March 11, 1995. He was sentenced to life in prison Friday for orchestrating the kidnap-murder of 15-year-old Nick Markowitz.
updated 2/5/2010 8:16:25 PM ET 2010-02-06T01:16:25

Jesse James Hollywood was sentenced to life in prison Friday for orchestrating the kidnap-murder of a teenager, ending a 10-year legal odyssey that included an international manhunt and a movie inspired by the high-profile crime.

Superior Court Judge Brian Hill sentenced Hollywood, 30, to life without the possibility of parole in a Santa Barbara courtroom after denying a defense motion for a new trial.

Hollywood had faced a possible death penalty, but jurors recommended life after finding him guilty in July of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Hollywood ordered the killing of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in August 2000 over a $1,200 drug debt owed by the victim's half-brother.

The case drew national interest because of the brazen daylight kidnapping of Markowitz from a San Fernando Valley street, the details of his murder and Hollywood's notorious name.

It also captured the attention of producers who made the 2007 movie "Alpha Dog," with Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake and Emile Hirsch, who played "Johnny Truelove," a character based on Hollywood.

"I feel strongly that my client could not receive a fair trial because of the movie and the pretrial publicity," argued defense attorney James Blatt, who said Hollywood's case was the first ever in the U.S. depicted in a movie released prior to trial.

Four other defendants have been convicted in the killing, including the gunman, who was sentenced to death.

Manhunt
Hollywood fled after the slaying and testified at his trial he lived in Colorado, the Mojave Desert and various parts of Canada before he was captured in Brazil in 2005. He claimed he didn't order the murder and was not present when Nicholas was shot and buried in a shallow grave in the hills above Santa Barbara.

The case stalled for years after it was learned that Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen had turned over probation reports, police files and other documents to "Alpha Dog" director Nick Cassavetes.

Zonen said in court documents that he gave the files to Cassavetes to help publicize the hunt for Hollywood. An appeals court removed Zonen from the case, but the state's highest court and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that he and the district attorney's office could stay on the case.

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