By Tiffany Yeh
Juan Morales (represented by Rod Beede), Antonio Salinas (represented by James Granucci), and Angel Rodriguez (represented by John Spangler) are all charged with gang enhancements in addition to other charges. Michelle Serafin is representing the prosecution.
At the beginning of the preliminary examination, for purposes of the prelim only, the parties stipulated that Norteños are a criminal street gang and that Officer John Perez is qualified to testify as a criminal street gang expert.
Officer Perez, a Woodland police officer, was on the Yolo County Gang Task Force for six years. Currently he is a patrol officer. He testified today in court.
On January 25, 2015, a stabbing occurred. Two weeks after the stabbing, an investigation was conducted.
On January 27, 2015, the victim voluntarily arrived at the Woodland Police Department and wanted to speak to an officer about the stabbing that had occurred two days earlier. He was calm and cooperative during the interview.
The victim was drinking with Fernando Coronado (a friend of his) at Coronado’s house. At the time, the victim was dating Mr. Morales’ cousin, Mercedes Perez.
The victim said during the interview that he had been an active Norteño in the past but had since dropped out and that Mr. Morales was a current Norteño. The victim and Morales had not had any issues for about a year.
Mr. Morales got a call from someone. After the call, Morales asked the victim to drive him to the other individual’s house to pick him up.
The individual who was picked up was described as around 18 years old, Hispanic and with shoulder length hair. The victim did not know who the man was but was able to identify Mr. Rodriguez from a lineup. This individual was later found out to be Angel Rodriguez.
Then, the victim, Morales and Rodriguez went back to Coronado’s house.
The officer testified, not for the truth of the matter, that Rodriguez told the victim that Morales intended to “put him on.”
According to Officer Perez, “being put on” means becoming a member of the gang. The victim told Mr. Rodriguez not to do it (not to cause him to become a member.)
Mr. Morales was also there when this was occurring. The victim went outside to smoke, and Rodriguez and Morales went outside. The victim saw Mr. Salinas there too.
In the interview, the victim stated that he was punched by Rodriguez, and from then, Salinas and Morales assaulted the victim too. All were involved in the assault.
The victim knew Salinas, and had possibly dated a relative of Mr. Salinas’.
The victim was stabbed in the left arm, with stab wounds to the head, and remembers Morales showing him a green military-type knife (the only knife the victim had seen during the night.) The victim could not say who stabbed him.
The victim lost consciousness during the assault and when he woke up, he drove to his home, arrived at his own residence, and walked toward it. He saw Mr. Morales, Mr. Salinas, and Mr. Rodriguez getting out of a vehicle that someone drove. The three people ran out of the vehicle and assaulted the victim again. The victim had tried to call for his brother, was knocked to the ground, and was assaulted.
The victim’s brother ran outside but wasn’t able to do much and by then the individuals were already leaving.
The victim was contacted by Officer Josh Amoruso but was uncooperative and refused to provide any information.
Officer Amoruso went to the victim’s residence to investigate. He saw blood on the porch and in the driveway area, and found a bloody shirt in one of the sinks.
On January 27, 2015, Officer Perez interviewed the victim and took photos of the injuries, which included the left arm and left shoulder with injuries, stitches to his right shoulder, and bruising under his arm. The left arm had stitching under the arm from the wound. The top of the victim’s head also had some kind of scar.
Officer Perez can’t remember if the victim picked Mr. Morales from a lineup, but the victim was able to verbally identify Antonio Salinas and Angel Rodriguez.
Officer Perez also interviewed Mr. Coronado and Lorenzo Lopez (the driver of the vehicle that brought Salinas to the victim’s house).
Mr. Coronado stated that he and the victim were initially drinking beer, an argument began, then Morales arrived, and at some point later, Rodriguez arrived. There was fighting among the victim, Morales, Salinas, and Rodriguez. Coronado was reluctant to answer a lot of questions about the fighting, like who did what, and how the fight started.
Mr. Lopez was also interviewed at the Woodland police department by Officer Perez. Lopez told the officer that he was feeling uncomfortable about answering questions.
He described being with Salinas at another gathering, bringing Salinas to Coronado’s house, seeing a fight happen, and seeing Salinas running over to join the fight. Then, he (Mr. Lopez) went southbound on 6th Street, then made a U-turn and came back.
He saw the victim being punched and kicked on the ground (with Salinas, Morales and Rodriguez all involved). Mr. Lopez stopped the vehicle and all three got in (and told him to get out of the area).
Mr. Lopez stated that he initially didn’t want to follow the directions, then things got quiet as they all stared at Lopez. Then they followed the victim to his residence.
The three got out again, Mr. Lopez drove around the block, then the three got back into the car.
Salinas was arrested and Mirandized, and he then gave an interview to an officer. He stated that, during the first fight, he saw the victim face down on the ground, and the victim appeared to be unconscious. Morales and Rodriguez were kicking at the victim.
Mr. Salinas ran over to the fight, and was trying to push them away (Salinas got knocked over at one point). They got back to Lopez’s vehicle, left the area, and one of the individuals wanted to follow the victim in Lopez’s vehicle.
Salinas tried to ask why. He described Mr. Rodriguez as being “amped up” and saying, “He had it coming, he had it coming,” and was pumping his fist and pounding against his chest.
They all drove to the victim’s house. They saw the victim going up to the house. Morales and Rodriguez jumped out of the vehicle, ran toward the victim (Salinas got out, trying to pick an item up from the ground), and Salinas heard the victim calling for the victim’s brother.
Mr. Salinas stated that Morales and Rodriguez came back into vehicle and that Mr. Lopez did not take part in any of those assaults.
Officer John Perez testified about the low status of gang “dropouts,” according to interviews he did with gang members while he was working with the Yolo County Gang Task Force. He talked about Norteño street gang members in Woodland.
He described Mr. Morales as holding gang membership since he was little.
Rod Beede questioned Officer Perez about whether the victim had been stabbed a month before January 25, 2015, by the victim’s then-girlfriend. Beede suggested that the scars were still present from that.
He also questioned the officer about whether the victim was stabbed between January 25 and January 27, 2015.
The victim had also refused to state who was responsible for the stabbing and stated in his interview, “Why don’t you bust the busters?”
In a line of questioning, Officer Perez admitted that it had been approximately six years since the victim had dropped out from the Norteño gang.
Rod Beede questioned the officer about how long Mr. Rodriguez had been an active gang member and why Mr. Rodriguez would need to be “put on.”
The officer stated that Mr. Rodriguez was an active Norteño gang member at that time, had been a gang member for about two years, since about February of 2013. Officer Perez’s explanation was that Varrio Bosque Norteño was a special membership within the larger Norteño gang and that Mr. Rodriguez sought to “be put on” for VBN.
The preliminary hearing will reconvene on May 25, 2016, at 1:30pm in Department 8.