By Julia Martinez and Linh Nguyen
Trial Resumes Regarding Alleged Norteño Gang Member Issuing Death Threats
By Julia Martinez
The jury trial resumed for a man that allegedly issued death threats through his gang affiliation and tailgated the owners of a towing company after his car was towed for parking illegally.
The defendant, Daniel Jaime Vallejo, is charged with felony criminal threats, criminal street gang participation and driving under the influence. After retrieving his car from the tow yard, the defendant allegedly began yelling at and threatening to kill the tow-yard owner and his family. Vallejo allegedly made several threats emphasizing his affiliation with the Norteños, specifically the Vario Bosque Norteños of Woodland, and how they run the town, instilling fear into the victims.
The first witness called to the stand was Fidel Taylor, a Yolo County Deputy Sheriff at the time, who described a 2001 incident involving Mr. Vallejo which he witnessed. The witness arrived at the hospital in the emergency room where there was loud yelling, commotion, and a fight. Mr. Vallejo allegedly walked by the victim and there was a verbal confrontation, specifically gang-related threats, before the fight broke out.
The witness testified that there was a group of people fighting a single subject. One suspect tried to run away upon the deputy’s arrival and he tackled and handcuffed him. Mr. Taylor identified that individual as Mr. Vallejo. He confirmed that Mr. Vallejo and his group members all wore red shirts or red hats.
Mr. Taylor testified that Mr. Vallejo did not call upon his group members, that it was more of a “spontaneous thing.” He stated the subject fought back in self-defense.
The second witness called to the stand was Deputy John Ney, an gang expert detective with Yolo County. Deputy Ney described how gang members face consequences if they are considered a “snitch” and that if they are in an opposing gang’s area with gang-affiliated tattoos, they are bound to conflict.
Deputy Ney was shown a photo of a tattoo that included various gang symbols which he confirmed to be gang-affiliated. He testified that the tattoo belonged to Mr. Vallejo and that Mr. Vallejo was a registered member of the Vario Bosque Norteños.
The witness next confirmed that, in 2016, Mr. Vallejo was charged as an accessory to a felony for attempted murder; Mr. Vallejo’s felony plea form was shown to the jury. This incident involved Alejandro Loza Quezada, a confirmed Norteño gang member, charged with a felony count of murder, gang enhancements, and personal use of a firearm. The witness confirmed this was the case Mr. Vallejo was affiliated with.
Deputy Ney next testified on behalf of the conversations he had with a witness in the 2016 case, A.M., whom he identified as an associate to the Norteños, but not an active member. He stated A.M. was reluctant to divulge any information because he believed there would be repercussions from the fellow gang members of Mr. Vallejo and Mr. Quezada if he made a statement. A.M. later testified that he did in fact have contact with Mr. Vallejo and Mr. Quezada, but did not disclose any information that could not be proven.
The deputy testified to searching Mr. Quezada’s device through an extraction report where he found text messages between Mr. Vallejo and Mr. Quezada. He recalled a text message from Mr. Quezada stating “tell (A.M.) to get the toy out of there,” allegedly referring to a gun. Mr. Vallejo confirmed to the witness that he received that text message, passed on the information to A.M., and told him to call Mr. Quezada. Deputy Ney also confirmed there were multiple calls between Mr. Vallejo and Mr. Quezada shortly after the shooting occurred; the witness described this as the gang members calling each other for aid after the crime was committed.
Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes presented a hypothetical situation that closely resembled the alleged story of what happened between Mr. Vallejo and the victims. Based on that information, Deputy Ney testified that the defendant would fit the criteria for being an active gang member based on his association with gang colors, gang crimes and the element of acting together with gang members.
He also testified, through this “hypothetical” situation, the gang-affiliated threats to the victims were for the benefit of the gang in order to instill fear into victims, the community, and keep victims reluctant to testify in court.
During the cross-examination between Deputy Ney and Defense Attorney Mathew Martinez, there was tension in the courtroom. The definition of “snitching” was called into question. Deputy Ney restated that the statement of A.M. “could” be considered snitching, but because he did not disclose any information, he helped Mr. Vallejo and Mr. Quezada more than he hurt them.
Deputy Ney next testified that Mr. Vallejo provided little information to A.M. in the case; some of his information could be proved by physical evidence but it was difficult to decipher what information was lies. He testified that Mr. Vallejo was not a credible source in this 2016 shooting case.
Defense Attorney Mathew Martinez questioned Deputy Ney, asking if a snitch were to get put on blast, would he be able to remain in the area without punishment. The deputy responded, “No.” The witness testified the same thing about gang drop-outs.
He testified that gang drop-outs are housed separately from active gang members, and if Mr. Vallejo was being housed with the drop-outs, he believed he would be doing so to avoid charges.
Deputy Ney confirmed Mr. Vallejo was registered as a gang member but it could be due to the law requiring him to register as one for his previous plea deal being convicted of gang crimes. The defense argued that Mr. Vallejo was living in Southern California, a rival gang territory, and was forced to be registered as a Norteño, so this was insufficient evidence to say that Mr. Vallejo was still currently involved in the gang.
The trial was set to resume in the afternoon.
Defense Begins Their Case in Alleged Norteno Gang Member Trial
By Linh Nguyen
The defense began their case in the trial of Daniel Jaime Vallejo, calling witnesses to the stand to testify.
In this ongoing Yolo County trial, the defendant is charged with two felony counts of threatening to commit a crime and two misdemeanor counts of gang affiliation and driving under the influence, with an enhancement of refusing to take a blood test. The prosecution does not have any more witnesses to call and the defense only has a few more.
The prosecution’s last witness, Deputy Ney, an expert witness on gangs and gang-related activities, continued his testimony from the last trial day.
During the cross-examination, Dep. Ney said that the defendant requested to be placed in the prison’s general population housing. Dep. Ney, however, did not allow that to happen, for Vallejo’s own safety. Dept. Ney argued that Vallejo was in administrative segregation housing so that he could not be harmed by other inmates.
Vallejo’s safety was potentially threatened by his interaction with law enforcement in 2016, where he arguably cooperated with law enforcement in sharing gang intel. Dept. Ney claimed that Vallejo was being uncooperative in 2016 when he only gave law enforcement information that he thought they had already known at the time.
Vallejo’s interaction with law enforcement may have led gang members to believe he was snitching. Dep. Ney’s expertise stated that snitches cannot live in Woodland and be safe from repercussions by the Norteños.
In his redirect, Deputy District Attorney Hasapes asked if Vallejo could still walk around Woodland as a gang member after he is deemed a snitch, to which Dep. Ney informed him that gang members cannot represent themselves as gang members after being deemed a snitch from the gang.
Dep. Ney told DDA Hasapes that it felt as if he were delivering a testimony for the 2016 case (in which Vallejo was tried as an accessory to murder), even though he knew he was testifying for the 2019 case.
The defense then recalled Investigator Aaron Moe to the stand. Moe last testified for this trial on Jan. 17, 2020. He is a Gang Task Force expert.
During this short testimony, Moe revealed that, in 2016, he conducted a secret interview with Vallejo, called a clean-for-a-day interview. This was conducted in secrecy so that other Norteño gang members would not find out and harm Vallejo. These kinds of interviews are conducted to protect the individual from providing information.
The defense’s next witness who was called to the stand had known the Vallejo since he was in high school. The witness, G.S., had sons who were close friends with the defendant. Vallejo had come over to the witness’s residence on many occasions in high school to play sports with the witness’s sons. Vallejo and the witness’s sons were around the same age.
G.S. claims to know Vallejo very well and never suspected that Vallejo was in a gang. He never heard talk of such nor had he seen Vallejo wearing clothing that would suggest gang activity. G.S. also said he never saw violence from Vallejo, stating, “I thought he was pretty calm, always.”
G.S. told the defense and the prosecution that if he had known Vallejo was involved in a gang or if he were violent and aggressive, he would not let Vallejo hang out with his sons.
Contrary to G.S.’s statements, the defense’s next witness, S.L., Vallejo’s former girlfriend, stated that knowing about Vallejo’s gang involvement or violent and aggressive behavior would not have changed her opinion about him.
S.L. and Vallejo initially met when they were 15, but reconnected in 2018, after Vallejo’s 2016 trial. They dated for about a year in 2018. During their relationship, S.L. did not notice anything that indicated that he was in a gang or that he was aggressive. Vallejo even moved in with S.L. and her two children. She did not perceive him as a danger to her or her children.
The prosecution asked S.L. if knowing about Vallejo’s past convictions and violent activity would have changed her opinion on his aggression and whether she would have let him live with her children knowing that. She said, “No, because that isn’t the person I know. I know Daniel.”
The trial is to resume on Wednesday, January 29. Judge Richardson addressed the jury before adjourning court for the day, stating, “I believe we are getting relatively close to the end.”