By Abby Henderson and Coco Wang
The trial resumed for a man charged with allegedly issuing death threats about a possible gang affiliation, after his car was towed from the Burger Saloon in Woodland.
The defendant, Daniel Vallejo, is charged with felony criminal threats, participation in a gang, and driving under the influence. Vallejo allegedly parked his car illegally outside of the Burger Saloon and discovered it had been towed by a local towing company. While collecting the defendant’s car, the witness stated Vallejo began to yell curse words and death threats at him. In addition to these words, Mr. Vallejo allegedly declared his association with the Norteños, a Northern California gang.
Defense Attorney Mathew Martinez gave his opening statement. He stressed the lack of immediacy and sustained fear demonstrated by the prosecution’s case. The defense claimed all evidence is of future threats and not immediate concerns.
Vallejo’s older brother testified on the stand. He shed light on the status of Daniel’s gang membership and what it means to be “greenlit,” or given permission by gang leaders to take out or severely harm a rogue gang member.
The brother stated that he did not believe that Daniel Vallejo committed the crimes he was charged for, basing this opinion on the “way he carried himself” when he would see Daniel on their monthly visits. He could not speak to Daniel’s involvement in the gang, replying to the prosecution’s questions in the same fashion, “I cannot recall.”
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes, introduced Deputy John Ney as an expert witness on gangs and gang-related activity. Deputy Ney has been a sworn peace officer for 23 years and has been qualified as an expert to testify in Yolo county courts over 12 times.
Deputy Ney explained that the Nuestra Familia, a prison gang, is considered the “CEO” of the Northern California Norteño gangs. The three generals of the Nuestra Familia oversee the entirety of gang business and ensure punishment in prison for the convicted Norteño members who fail to follow their rules.
Deputy Ney also stated that the Vario Bosque Norteño gang, the active gang in the Woodland District, was a subset of the Norteño gangs. In his explanation, a demonstration of one’s affiliation with the Vario Bosque Norteño gang could include tattoos with the letter “B” or “VBN” on his or her body, such as his or her arms, legs, or chest. The number 4 and 14 are also important numbers for the Vario Bosque Norteño gang; the number 4 relating to the 14th letter in the alphabet, N, representing the Norteño.
Deputy Ney testified on criteria that would validate an individual as a gang member, which included self-admission, gang tattoos, and participation in gang crimes. The Yolo County sheriff’s department required 3 out of the 11 criteria to document a validated gang member.
Deputy Ney testified that “respect” is a crucial element among gang members. These gangs hope the community is fearful enough to not report their crimes. Deputy Ney stated that every gang member was a walking ambassador of the gang and if one of them was disrespected or perceived to be disrespected, the entire gang appeared weak.
The consequences of disrespect may vary from gang to gang, and invoking the Norteño to instill fear and intimidation could be considered a victory if fear and intimidation were successfully installed. The defendant’s alleged words, “I am Norteño; we are the Norteño; we run this town,” could qualify as an invocation to instill fear and intimidation.