Does DA’s Press Release Show Ornelas Prosecution About Gang Injunction?

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ganginjunction_catOn Tuesday, the Vanguard covered the long and at times complex case of Rudy Ornelas, who was prosecuted and eventually convicted for attempted murder.  In watching the trial, it seems questionable that he was actually the shooter in the case and more likely that his co-defendant, Claudio Magobet, was actually the guy who pulled the trigger.

Mr. Magobet had the motive, he had the dispute with Abel Trevino over the girl, he had the explosive temper, he was the one who went on the run after the incident while Mr. Ornales went home to his wife, and the list goes on.

One clue comes from the headline from the DA’s press release, “Broderick Gang Member Convicted of Attempted Murder.”  In the article, it reads, “On February 1, 2007, Ornelas, a validated Broderick Boy gang member…”  In fact, the motivation here may be that Mr. Ornelas is one of the defendants in another trial, the Gang Injunction Trial. Mr. Ornelas, who is represented  in that case pro per (by himself), was severed from the rest of the case since he was not represented by counsel in the first week due to his own trial taking place concurrently. 

Given the fact that one of the points in question in the Gang Injunction Trial is whether the Broderick Boys gang exists and whether the defendants are gang members and specifically members of the gang, it would seem more reasonably that the DA’s office ought to refer to any defendant in that trial as an alleged Broderick Gang Member.  Otherwise we are simply adding fuel on the fire to the notion that the gang validation and gang injunction process are tantamount to inverting the burden of proof, and making the defendants guilty until proven innocent with regards to gang affiliation and membership.

Moving beyond what might be termed a semantic point, there is little evidence that Mr. Ornelas, now in his mid-30s, is a gang member.

First of all, like many of these cases, this particular case had nothing to do with gang activity.  Mr. Ornelas was not charged with a gang enhancement.  The word gang or Broderick Boy never even was mentioned.  The prosecution never once called him a gang member.  Whatever happened, and whosever side you believe in this case, it is clear that Mr. Trevino was not shot in some gang dispute, but rather in a personal dispute between two men as individuals.  In other words, the case itself has nothing to do with gang activity.

Of course that did not stop the DA’s office on June 24, 2010 from referring to Jesse Garcia, another defendant in the Gang Injunction case, in a case involving domestic violence, as a “validated Broderick Boy.”  Again the fact that he may or may not be a gang member was irrelevant to the case at hand, but the DA’s office is using these cases apparently to raise the public’s concern about the alleged Broderick Boys gang.

Is Mr. Ornelas a gang member?  There is little evidence, at least in his record, that would suggest that he is.

According to Eugene Ramirez, Mr. Ornelas’ brother, to the best of his knowledge, there has never been an official “validation” of Rudy Ornelas as a Broderick Boy or the member of any other gang.  He has never received a decree from the police or the county.  He has never received a “registration card” to carry around in his wallet.

Mr. Ornelas does have a lengthy criminal history, mostly involving minor offenses, most of them misdemeanors. In perusing the file, none of those cases contained gang enhancements.  The key phrase in California Penal Code Section 186.22(b)(1) reads, “any person who is convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members.”

That distinguishes a gang crime from strictly a person who is an alleged gang member committing a crime.  The DA’s office is going to argue, in the Gang Injunction Trial, that they only have to show a nuisance presented to the community by individuals who are part of an organized gang.  They cite the 1997 Acuna case as their authority, but from our standpoint, unless they can prove a pattern of gang crimes, all they have shown is a bunch of bad people have committed crimes which they have rightly been punished for.

Mr. Ramirez told the Vanguard that Mr. Ornelas did know some guys who claimed to be Brodericks, because they all grew up in the area.  He has, in the past, hung out with some of them.  But he did not  “run with them.”  He was not involved in their criminal activities.  So to his brother’s knowledge, Mr. Ornelas has no official affiliation with Broderick, or any other gang, ever.

If the DA wants to make the case for the gang injunction that is fine, but they are going to have to prove that people like Rudy Ornelas are gang members, and there just is not evidence that he was ever a gang member. Certainly at the time of his arrest he was not a gang member, he was not charged with a gang crime, and gang membership was never even mentioned by the prosecution. That is the strongest clue here, because if they could tie in gang membership, that would be something that they would at least use in the closing statement to influence the jury.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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12 thoughts on “Does DA’s Press Release Show Ornelas Prosecution About Gang Injunction?”

  1. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “One clue comes from the headline from the DA’s press release, “Broderick Gang Member Convicted of Attempted Murder.” In the article, it reads, “On February 1, 2007, Ornelas, a validated Broderick Boy gang member…” “

    dmg: “According to Eugene Ramirez, Mr. Ornelas’ brother, to the best of his knowledge, there has never been an official “validation” of Rudy Ornelas as a Broderick Boy or the member of any other gang.”

    And who are we to believe here? Can you honestly say Mr. Ornelas’ brother is unbiased?

  2. David M. Greenwald

    No one is unbiased. The question is whether or not he’s being honest, and I found him to be very frank when discussing his brother’s past and his recollection is corroborated with his past record.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “No one is unbiased. The question is whether or not he’s being honest, and I found him to be very frank when discussing his brother’s past and his recollection is corroborated with his past record.”

    But you are hearing only one side, the defendant’s side…

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “But you are hearing only one side, the defendant’s side… “

    We also did our own independent research looking up his past criminal record, there’s also the fact that gang membership never was mentioned in the court proceedings, and yet it ends up in the press release. Why is that? So no, I would argue that the defendant’s side is a small piece of the total puzzle.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “We also did our own independent research looking up his past criminal record, there’s also the fact that gang membership never was mentioned in the court proceedings, and yet it ends up in the press release. Why is that? So no, I would argue that the defendant’s side is a small piece of the total puzzle.”

    Let me put it another way. The DA says the defendant is a gang member. The defendant’s brother says the defendant is not a gang member. Furthermore, the defendant is a convicted murderer. Who has the greater credibility here from a logical perspective?

    Just because gang membership was not in the court proceedings/past criminal record does not necessarily mean the defendant is not a gang member.

  6. Themis

    The DA uses press releases as their own propaganda. By using the heading “Broderick Gang Member” the DA is trying to legitimize the gang injunction. By using the phrase as often as possible they know people will start believing it.

  7. Primoris

    [quote]“…By using the heading “Broderick Gang Member” the DA is trying to legitimize the gang injunction. By using the phrase as often as possible they know people will start believing it.”[/quote]

    Themis, ala: “Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Scandal”

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “Let me put it another way. The DA says the defendant is a gang member. The defendant’s brother says the defendant is not a gang member. Furthermore, the defendant is a convicted murderer. Who has the greater credibility here from a logical perspective? “

    Given the fact that all convicted murders are not gang members, it would seem to me that you still have to prove the claim. What evidence is there that he’s a gang member? His brother was fairly honest in terms of his brothers shortcomings, if he were a gang member, I think he would have told me.

  9. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: ” His brother was fairly honest in terms of his brothers shortcomings, if he were a gang member, I think he would have told me.”

    You’ve got to be kidding?

  10. valerie

    E Robert Musser, you have got to be KIDDING. I grew up on the streets of “Broderick” and happen to know there is no gangs or gang activity going on. These so called “GANG” members are people who played sports together, lived near eachother, went to school together and just have very close friendships with one another. The only GANGING up going around the streets of Broderick comes from our own DA’S. I challenge you to walk my neighborhood for one week and you tell me if it is all that bad. I am so sick and tired of every time a crime happens in Broderick with a hispanic the first thing is its a GANG crime. Stop already

  11. mistyd

    to back up valerie’s statement….i too am from Broderick, and can tell you that Broderick isn’t a gang…..we’re all family. for those of you who don’t know anything about the beautiful city that we’re from….it’s more like this…..30+ families that go back generations, and have all grown up together.

    now as for this situation with rudy….i feel for him, because it’s obvious that he was used as a political pawn with the DA’s poor attempt at a gang injunction. every headline that i have read that has to do with his case, all said BRODERICK BOY….are you serious? his case has nothing to do with gang involvement….like david said in this article. and i hope and pray that rudy gets his conviction over-turned with appeals. he might get better luck though, if he gets his case moved out of yolo county.

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