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.
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