by Saghi Nojoomi and Katie Wu
Monday’s preliminary hearing continued Thursday afternoon with a gang expert’s testimony.
On Thursday, the prosecution’s gang expert witness testified about the defendants’ gang history. Defendants Anthony Simonetta and Joaquin Galvan face human trafficking, theft, and possible gang enhancement charges. They are currently being held in custody.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens continued the hearing when he raised questions on the gang term, “bang.” When asked if he knew the meaning of the term, “gang bang,” the gang expert witness stated that the term generally refers to active gang members that pledge their allegiance by committing gang-related acts called “banging.” To confirm the exclusive nature of gangs, Couzens inquired if gang members would commit crimes with people not affiliated with their gangs. According to the gang expert, the chances of successfully committing a crime with a gang member is higher, considering the loyalty of gang members to their gangs. Members find it difficult to trust those not affiliated with their chosen gang.
When asked if human trafficking is an active activity of street gangs, the expert witness implied that it is, although it is possible it hasn’t been seen often.
According to the prosecution’s witness, when he interviewed Defendant Anthony Simonetta on June 11, 2014, Simonetta denied being involved with any of the charges. Instead, the expert witness claimed, Esteban Herrera mentioned in an interview that the other defendant, Joaquin Galvan, was in the possession of a gun on the night in question. Prior to the victim’s assault, the victim and Esteban Herrera met after scheduling a direct meet-up through the social networking website, Facebook. Esteban Herrera subsequently agreed to give the victim and Galvan a ride. Suddenly, Galvan pulled a gun out and threw Herrera out of the truck.
When Attorney Rodney Beede, representing the victim, tried to help the gang expert witness recollect his memory of the crime and the police report, the witness struggled to recount the specific assault acts that Herrera and Galvan made.
“Do you recall that in the police report that Galvan had a gun and was pointing it at the victim?” Mr. Beede asked.
“I recall he had a gun, but I don’t remember if he was pointing it,” the witness stated.
“Do you remember the victim saying she was grabbed and assaulted?” Mr. Beede asked.
The witness confirmed this by stating, “She had been grabbed and shoved back into the truck.”
Since active gang members continuously “bang” to display their loyalty, inactive gang members are those that refrain from criminal activity. Defendant Galvan’s last criminal activity, in 2012, implied an inactive membership within the gang. This “drop-out” from committing further gang-affiliated crimes can cause consequences to future actions. This can be a possible explanation as to the rift between Herrera and Galvan.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, attorney for Joaquin Galvan, questioned the expert witness about how Galvan’s past has been the trigger for current troubles through examining Galvan’s tattoos. The notion that Galvan had a tattoo of “East Side” instilled the idea that Galvan had prior association with the East Side Yolo Gang. However, the witness said this gang had not existed since the 1980s or 1990s. Despite that, when Mr. Johansson presented a photograph of Galvan throwing up a gang sign for police evidence, the witness still declared that to be a form of promoting or representing a gang. Therefore, regardless of whether Galvan was formerly or currently still associated with a gang, throwing a gang symbol in any situation still indicates loyalty and respect to that gang.
During cross-examination, Defense Attorney James Granucci inquired if his client, Anthony Simonetta, was ever identified with the robbery. According to the witness, Mr. Simonetta was never identified in connection with the robbery.
The preliminary hearing is set to continue tomorrow.