Key Witnesses Testify in Craigslist Gang Case

GangBy Patrick Shum

On August 13, 2014, the case of People v. Orozco continued with three police officers and two victims testifying about the defendant’s alleged theft. The defendant, Eduardo Orozco, is currently accused of being a gang member who stole several electronic devices, posing as a prospective buyer while answering ads on Craigslist for electronic devices.

The two victims and two police officers testified to the situations when the items were stolen, while a second police officer offered expert testimony that Orozco was a gang member. Ryan Couzens represented the DA and Emily Fisher represented the defendant.

The trial first started in the morning when Juror No. 6 asked the judge to be excused from jury duty on the basis on medical issues that surfaced yesterday, which was not disclosed during jury selection because the juror felt that none of the questions pertained to it. Judge Stephen Mock excused the juror, who was replaced by the alternate juror.

The first witness was a police officer with Woodland PD, Kent Chan. Chan testified about the following: last year on May 12, he spoke with a victim, KG, about an item being stolen. The victim had met a potential buyer at a 7-Eleven who answered KG’s Craigslist ad. KG was trying to sell his iPhone, when he handed it to the potential buyer. The buyer then said he was going to see if he could plug it in to his car.

The car was a silver Toyota Echo. At that point the potential buyer drove away. The victim went to Sprint to turn on the phone’s GPS and then let the police know the approximate location of the item, which was on Washington Drive.

That led to cross-streets on Tyler Drive. While Chan went to that place, he could not find the phone. The next day, Chan heard on the radio that Officer Omar Flores was dealing with the case of a stolen Kindle, involving a silver Toyota Echo. Chan contacted KG to see if KG could identify the perpetrator. KG only mentioned one person involved.

Chan picked up KG and drove to 1453 Washington Drive, where Flores had the suspect. KG identified the suspect, surnamed Gonzalez, one of Orozco’s co-defendants in a separately-tried case.

On cross-examination, Chan testified that the victim did not mention gang members, Norteños, or anything gang-related. The witness was excused. KG was supposed to be the first witness but had not arrived yet.

After Officer Chan had testified, KG had not yet shown up. Another police officer testified instead. Jason Drobich, another Woodland Police Officer, said he saw the owner of the silver Toyota Echo, AJ Gonzalez, who was with Oscar Gonzalez. Drobich helped the investigation. The direct examination ended without any cross-examination.

The next witness was John Perez, another Woodland PD officer, and the case’s gang expert. Perez testified to his experience dealing with gangs as a law enforcement officer, and then described how he was involved in the case.

He had been contacted about suspected gang members for robbery and theft, and he handled investigating both gang crimes and gang associations. He described investing two cases, of victims FF and EC.

He interviewed the victims, wrote a report, and had a line-up conducted. Perez performed forensics on two recovered cell phones, one LG phone and one Kyocera phone. On the LG phone, he was unable to extract information using Cellebrite equipment to get texts or photos from the phone itself. However, he recovered a selfie from the memory card, which appeared to have been taken using the LG phone. On the Kyocera phone, the police were able to use Cellebrite to get photos and text. One text was to a person called Lallo.

Perez also said the victim FF noticed the perpetrator had two rotten front teeth, with a gap. When he contacted Orozco, Perez also noted the defendant’s teeth were odd, white with unnatural layers. On cross-examination, Perez said he did not know Lallo was the nickname for Eduardo.

He also said that, while he was looking for gang membership, he did not find any evidence of gang membership on the phones. On re-direct, Perez then testified extensively about his training and experience again. This allowed Judge Mock to qualify Perez to give opinion testimony about criminal street gangs.

The court took a break until the victim KG arrived. KG testified that on May 12 last year, he had his iPhone stolen. He had put an ad on Craigslist, went to 7-Eleven, and the prospective buyer went to check if it worked. At that point the buyer took off. KG did not testify to any force or violence. He also explained that he was checking to see if the auxiliary cord worked.

After the car drove off, KG heard laughing as well. KG called 911 and filed a police report, talking with Officer Chan. The phone was not recovered. KG also remembered the car was a silver Echo. He saw the person who took his phone and identified him.

After questions from the jury, KG explained he was trying to get into the passenger seat of the vehicle but the potential buyer got into the driver’s seat and drove off. Both counsel stipulated that KG identified the defendant as the potential buyer.

The next witness was another victim, EC. EC lost both an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5. He reported this to the police online. The procedure was similar: he put an ad on Craigslist. Two buyers arrived to a location near where EC lived.

Three people then arrived in a Honda Civic. One of them spoke. EC showed them the old phone, the iPhone 4 he no longer needed, and he let them look at it. He was so happy at getting an iPhone 5 that he brought it out too. At that point, someone took that phone from him, closed the door, and drove off. EC did not remember being shoved to the ground, but did scrape an elbow because he jumped on the car. EC identified the person he saw as sitting in court, identifying the defendant Eduardo Orozco.

On cross-examination, EC said the front passenger had passed the iPhone 4 back, and still had it when the car drove off. He also said he slipped off the car after he jumped on it because he thought it was the only thing he could do. The car moved for about 26 feet before he fell off, estimated as the distance from the witness stand to the first row of seats in the courtroom, Department 3.

Lastly, the prosecution called John Perez again, for his part in the investigation in the EC case. Perez brought a line-up where EC wrote “This guy pushed me and stole the phone.” Perez also said EC noticed rotten teeth.

The rest of Perez’s testimony extended to gangs. He described the Norteño gang, their origins with Nuestra Familia, and the dispute with the Sureños and the Mexican Mafia. He said the Norteño identifying symbols were red, the letters XIV (the 14th letter of the alphabet being N for Norteño), and a drawing comprising four dots over two lines. The Sureños were identified with the letter XIII (because the 13th letter of the alphabet was M for Mexican Mafia). Perez also described much about Norteño criminal gang activity.

Perez said the police had 11 points that could be used to identify people as gang members. Three or more points would indicate membership. In Perez’s expert opinion, Orozco was an active Norteño. Perez cited Orozco’s Facebook profile, which he determined from Orozco’s name on it. Perez described various quotes from the profile, judging them to reference gang activity, and connecting it to being a gang member. Perez also described other aspects of Norteño activity, including how Norteños were often related to each other.

Also, sometimes they will discreetly display their gang affiliation by having tattoos of a dot on one arm and four dots on another arm. Perez determined that Oscar Gonzalez and Ivan Gonzalez were also Norteños.

From Perez’s testimony, Orozco had written that he was a Norteño, which Perez said indicated affiliation but not necessarily validation with the Norteños. Perez also testified that in a hypothetical where several gang members meet to rob a prospective seller of electronic items, the theft would assist the members in various ways.

However on cross-examination, Perez admitted that theft was not specific to gang activity. Also he did not know about Orozco having an opiate addiction or recently losing his father, or being transient and looking for places to live.

Perez also explained that Orozco was not from Woodland but was from Arbuckle. Also, while Perez marked on a map the areas of Woodland that were claimed by the Sureño and Norteño criminal street gangs, he also said he was not experienced with gang activity in Woodland.

At some point during this cross-examination, Perez also said that Orozco had not been a suspected gang member until the thefts in question, but attributed this to the fact that Orozco is from Arbuckle.

Also, when it came to social media, Perez said that even if Orozco was a “wannabe” gang member, it was still a step toward gang activity. Lastly, Perez said that the only evidence Orozco was a gang member was the jail classification form where Orozco indicated that he was, and he never heard Orozco admit or boast of being a Norteño.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. Davis Progressive

    “He also said that, while he was looking for gang membership, he did not find any evidence of gang membership on the phones.”

    i don’t see much in here to believe that this was a gang crime. do others disagree?

  2. hope

    What id like to know is….has anyone ever challenged the “expertise” of officer perez?! credible are his testimonies?! Or is it because he “is the only” expert.he seems to say the same thing in his testimonies with every case. Ive been reading vanguard court watch for some time now n it just seems repetetive with him when it comes to the gang enhancement. He always testifies defendant “admit” to him being gang members. How is that?! Doesnt Police interrogation rooms have surveillance?!.
    Jail and booking areas?!. We the people know there is police misconduct….planting of evidence…etc. why does it seem like its always young latinos?… why always norteno?!…i actually have not read any recent cases where perez testifies to a known sureno. Its just like his “expert” testimony of the four defendant case at 7-11which will soon be retried a 4th time coming september. ….”Norteno gang members stealing chips to benefit their gang”so they say. No audio, no video, no evidence to prove they committed the crime. Its just the police against the so called “criminals”. This is sad….. A red belt or just red shoe laces or listening to rap music doesnt justify gang affiliation.

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