by Antoinnette Borbon
The last witness to testify for the state’s case, against an 11 alleged gang member sweep in 2012, took a bit of a wild ride with the defense’s firm interrogation of Detective Herrera. Herrera, whose training, education and experience has, he stated, led him into further knowledge of criminal street gangs and their activities went under heavy scrutiny by all four defense counsels.
During his testimony for DDA Robin Johnson, Det. Herrera gave the opinion that, after carefully weighing all the evidence and helping in YONET’s undercover investigation, this case was definitely tied to the Broderick Boys of West Sacramento. He stated to jurors that all of the defendants had affiliation with either the Broderick Boys, or as members or dropouts from prison who are called the Northern Riders.
He said one of the activities of a gang member is selling drugs to further promote the gang. Herrera said he has studied gangs their origin, characteristics, rules and the activities gang members do to keep the gangs running. Herrera would also say that he has been involved in helping some of the ex-gang members get into more productive lifestyles, as with the group called, “Legends of boxing,” which helps young men train to box instead of repeating a life of crime through gang membership.
In the Operation Red Sash case, Herrera testified as a gang expert for the prosecution. He said in the undercover operation they were able to tie the defendants to being validated gang members by the CDC (California Department of Corrections) file each one had in prison, if they had been. But some of the others were found to be affiliates of gang members. He stated, “The tattoos on defendants are symbols of them being a member and by the type of tattoo, you know which gang they belong to.” He said there are different tattoos for representing the gang, “Broderick Boys.” Herrera talked about working with Labin Wilson of the Gang Task Force in determining who were members in the West Sac Area. He said, “They sell drugs as a part of promoting the gang with monetary gain.” But other crimes are involved in the promotion, as well, including crimes of violence, especially in the prison system. He said they do this for a higher respect. “The more violent the crime, sometimes, the higher rank you gain.”
One by one, DDA Johnson had Det. Herrera talk about the defendants and the evidence that ties them to the notorious Broderick Boys of West Sac. Herrera talked about the drug sales involving Lewis, Montoya, Butcher and Rosales. He said each one had a part in the selling of methamphetamine to undercover agents Gary Richter and Ryan Bellamy. Johnson showed the pictures of defendants, some of them with tattoos representing the Broderick Boys and/or Northern Riders. But Herrera could not attest to exactly when these tattoos were done. Only a few of the tattoos were noted to have been present on a couple defendants from the evidence of jail intake pictures.
It was now time for the defense to hammer away at the witness’ testimony, and they did, one by one.
J. Toney would inquire about Herrera’s knowledge of his client, Wayne Lewis, who Toney stated “is a longtime addict.” Toney, firmly asked, “Did you know Lewis was an addict?” “Yes,” replied Herrera. “And you read his file from prison right, you knew he was a dropout, you knew he could not be in a gang anymore because he had been convicted of a sex offense years ago.” “Umm..yes, but just because they say they are dropping out, they still go into other gangs, like the Northern Riders, while in prison.”
“You knew his affiliations on the outside were some of his family, didn’t you?” declared Toney. “And he told Richter that he was on the gang injunction even though he was a dropout, in fact he told him more than once that he was not in the Broderick Boys or any other gang since prison, right?” Herrera said, “But he was still a Northern Rider, that is what they go to when they dropout of other gangs while in prison.”
“But you have no real proof of that, do you? In fact, Richter testified to Lewis being high and up for a few days when they made the drug transactions, right?” Toney stated emphatically. Herrera answered, “Yes, that is correct.” “And you knew that Lewis was making money doing tattoos? But it wasn’t enough so he sold a little drugs, and you knew this because this is what he told Richter, right?” Toney’s voice grew louder: “Yet he never told Richter he was an active member of any gang, right?” “That is correct but again, being a dropout does not always mean they are not a member of some gang,” Herrera answered.
John Paul Brennan took Det. Herrera down a bit of a different road. He began asking about the cell phones seized in the search warrants. Brennan asked, “Did you ever have those phones messages and calls checked by Cellebrite?” Herrera stated, “I do not know what happened to the documents with the phone records on them are, but [they are] probably with our tech Paula Vaughn?” “So you do not know what they had on them? Is this what you’re saying?” asked Brennan. “Yes, that is correct.”
“Now, I want to take you down another road,” said Brennan. “You said that if a Broderick Boy drops out in prison, they automatically go to a Northern Rider? Even after the year long de-briefing it takes them to officially be a dropout, right?” Herrera said, “Yes, that is correct.” “So let me get this straight…even though these boys go through that lengthy process to get out of the gang, stay out of trouble while in prison, once they get out, they are automatically back in a gang once they are on the street again?” Brennan was raising the tempo in his speech. “Yes, well, they are not really dropouts, they usually become a Northern Rider and that is what they are known as on the streets.”
“And so once they get out, and, as you say, are now a Northern Rider, they shouldn’t be afraid of any Broderick Boys? Their safety isn’t an issue?” Brennan asked. Herrera said it could be an issue.
Brennan then asked about the tattoos and if Herrera had knowledge of when some of the defendants got them put on their body. He said he could go by jail intake pictures of the tattoos on the dates the defendants were taking into custody, let out and arrested again. Herrera said they can only tell how old some of the tattoos are by those time frames.
Defense attorney Dan Olson directed Det. Herrera’s attention to the type of tattoos his client, Ezekiel Butcher, had on his body. “Do you know there was an angel on one ear and a devil on the other?” asked Olson. “Ummm, yes, that is correct,” answered Herrera. Olson then switched the topic. “Now, you have been sitting in court listening to all of the testimony of witnesses, right? And in fact, during a break, you spoke with Agent Richter in the Hall about your report right? And did you tell him that Butcher had a tattoo on his face, or birthmark?” Herrera answered, “No, I did not tell him that or what was written in my reports.” Olson, coming on stronger, “But you heard his testimony before the break, correct, and you heard him say he knew nothing about a birthmark or tattoo, and then after the break, he recalled something being on there, right?” Herrera replied, “We didn’t talk about that.”