The injunction reverses that claim and forces individuals who have been served with the injunction or will be served with the injunction to do the opposite – prove they are not gang members.
What we did not see was evidence of some sort of underlying organization. We also did not see a lot of evidence that these crimes were expressly committed for purposes of promoting the gang or for the benefit of the gang. Some of these were assaults, many were drug crimes, most appear to have involved an individual or a few individuals.
The DA’s Office in this case could probably point to maybe a handful of crimes that appeared to be truly gang crimes. Among these, of course, were the Amtrak Attack and the Memorial Park attack – where a group of individuals, some of whom allegedly did shout gang epithets, did attack others.
This article, however, is not about the Broderick Boys trial or even West Sacramento itself. Rather, it is about what happens next, and more importantly what is happening now. This is an introduction to a much broader series of articles that will probe these issues more deeply in the coming weeks and months.
I have watched probably half a dozen multi-defendant gang preliminary hearings in the last month or two. They are all the same. Most of the defendants are extremely young. Most look rather innocent, and by that I mean not that they are necessarily innocent of a crime but rather they do not appear to be hardened criminals.
The evidence of a crime in some of these cases is strong, in others it is weaker. And in many of these cases, the gang ties are thin and based primarily on association.
Both the gang injunction and gang validation are based on assumptions about association. So people who hang out with validated gang members are often believed to be gang members themselves. The problem is that while there may be validation processes, this is not part of any kind of adjudicative body which would allow evidence to be introduced and the cross-examining of individuals.
Rather, gang validation is done largely through circumstantial evidence and assertions and declarations from law enforcement.
Recently I had long conversations, independent of each other, with several defense attorneys. Their chief complaints were the intractability of the DA’s Office on gang cases. The DA repeatedly insists on admissions to gang charges, which support both grant funding and evidence for the gang injunction.
And individual attorneys with the DA’s Office are not the ones who call the shots. So, the top brass makes all determinations and often negotiations are fruitless. We wonder why there are so many trials – look at the structure of the DA’s Office.
These individuals tell me that things are different under Jeff Reisig than they were under David Henderson.
Unfortunately, when the gang injunction case was actually heard by Judge White, no defense attorney was willing to testify that they received a “NSPT” (No State Prison Term) offer in exchange for a gang admission.
There is now evidence that the gang policies themselves might be contributing to any gang problem. Several people in the last few months have told me that there was no Broderick Boys in West Sacramento until the DA’s Office pressed for the gang injunction. Now, you have a lot of young kids calling themselves Broderick Boys.
Are they gang members? That is a difficult question that I am not qualified to answer. There is a hip-hop cultural mentality that glorifies the “gangsta” lifestyle. This has spawned a number of “wannabes” – young people who are drawn to the culture and emulate what they hear in rap music and what they see on TV.
The inclination of many is to crack down on these youthful offenders before they become more serious criminals. The problem is, that process is actually contributing to the problem – it creates hardened criminals and gang members.
What is happening is that when you put these kids in CYA or they end up being direct filed as adults, they end up getting placed in there with hard-core gang members and they naturally become gang members themselves.
One person I have met with told me that her son was not a gang member, but committed a minor crime, ended up going to CYA for a year, and came back, you guessed it, a gang member.
Fortunately, this kid did not want to continue down that path and has kept himself clean since then, but many others are not so lucky.
It is thus a feedback loop. As the DA imposes harsher and harsher penalties for relatively minor crimes, more and more kids get caught up in the system and then ultimately become hardened criminals and gang members in order to survive the harsh conditions inside facilities.
In my view, our gang policies are actually contributing to the problem. Our system produces gang members and we are feeding it fresh recruits.
More on this in the coming weeks as we illustrate some specific cases.
—David M. Greenwald reporting