Because the jury found he acted under duress, fearing he would be killed by fellow gang members, Hinds' conviction was automatically reduced to manslaughter, which limited the sentence the judge could impose.
The jury "bought" his story, Kassel said.
The former college student, who confessed to investigators after his 2010 arrest, turned briefly to face Huff's relatives in the courtroom. "I want to express my profound condolences," he said.
Hawkins and Huff were killed Feb. 22, 2010, in a violent frenzy involving at least 10 gang members in a Camden rowhouse. Hawkins, a Crips member, was shot five times because he stole money and alcohol from other gang members. Huff was strangled with a jump rope so she would not talk.
"You almost wonder what planet people come from who do these types of things," Kassel said.
Gang members testified at his trial that Hinds helped beat Hawkins with a bat while gang leader Kuasheim "Presto" Powell shot him in the head. Hinds and Powell then took a cigarette break and decided to kill Huff, a cosmetology student at Burlington County Institute of Technology, authorities said.
Gang members said Hinds held her arms while she was strangled by Shatara "Feisty" Carter, 14. Hinds, gang members said, gave Carter the rope.
"Mr. Hinds is not the product of an uncaring family," Kassel said. His parents testified on their son's behalf, he recalled, and Hinds graduated from a military-style high school and attended Burlington County College.
"This is not somebody who did not have options," Kassel said.
Hinds' attorney, Edward Crisonino, had requested leniency, arguing that Hinds was only 18 at the time and feared he would be killed if he did not go along with the gang.
Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah insisted otherwise, calling Hinds "the enforcer" for the Lueders Park Piru Bloods, an offshoot of the national gang.
"He was not the little lamb they were leading for slaughter," Shah said.
Acknowledging Hinds was unlikely to get the maximum possible sentence of 53 years, Shah asked the judge for 35 years after reading a statement from Huff's family, who called Hinds a coward.
In addition to manslaughter, Hinds was found guilty of conspiracy in both deaths, hindering apprehension because he destroyed evidence, and weapons offenses.
"This defendant was lucky that the jury bought his duress defense," said Prosecutor Warren Faulk, who attended the sentencing. The verdict left the judge "hamstrung."
Contact Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @BBBoyer.