COURT WATCH: Judge Concerned with Prosecution Plan in Gang-Related Case Demurrer – One DPD Calls Plan ‘Thought Police’

By Helen Shamamyan 

MODESTO, CA – Judge Dawna F. Reeves expressed concern with the prosecution’s intent here last week in Stanislaus County Superior Court in the prosecution of four men for “conspiracy” to commit felonious gang-related activities.

In a demurrer hearing, Judge Reeves said she questioned whether the prosecution could meet its burden of proof against the four men, who face charges for “a conglomerate of things,” as well as some individual charges, which has made it incredibly confusing and legally unclear before a jury, added Judge Reeves.

Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hogan alleged the accused were either beneficiaries or participants in the conspiracy to commit felonious conduct, including the illegal sale of narcotics and firearm possession and distribution.

DDA Hogan pointed to photographs, conversations, and other evidence uncovered in the discovery as proof that these four men were “planning to commit active participation” in a criminal street gang.

Judge Reeves asked why the DDA did not file a complaint under Penal Code § 182.5, and DDA Hogan explained it does not cover beneficiaries, which he considers “problematic for gang-related crimes.”

Citing the prior California case from 2013, People vs. Johnson, DDA Hogan asserts the conspiracy to commit active participation in a street crime is equivalent to the crime under prior statutes.

However, Judge Reeves inquired as to why he’s decided to “lump them all together” when there are some individuals who didn’t actively commit any gang-related crimes but might just be conspiring, and some accused who were tied to specific activities or plans.

Also, Judge Reeves added she was concerned DDA Hogan hadn’t met his burden of proof with his plan of action, given he had not addressed the men’s agreement to aid or benefit from felonious activities.

The judge said that if the crime is merely an agreement to commit a gang-related felony, the defense cannot be sure of what conduct they did wrong.

However, DDA Hogan responded “conspiracy” to commit a gang crime does not require one to agree, according to the rulings in the precedent case of Johnson.

Deputy Public Defender, Kiyah Lee, along with Private Defense Attorneys, Rebecka Monez and Richard Meyer, agreed all defense counsel needed to be informed of what exactly the accuseds are being charged with, otherwise it is “hard to defend when you don’t know what you’re defending.”

Based on DDA Hogan’s argument that the four accused men should be convicted for “actively participating in a street gang conspiracy to willfully promote, assist, or benefit from felonious conduct” by members of said gang, one of the defense attorneys argued there needs to be an act.

Defense attorney Monez stated that the prosecution is “getting around it” by charging based on association, or even just having conversations or relations with gang members, calling the charging language akin to the “thought police,” noting a conviction of the words used by those charged, and affiliations as if the accused men committed the crimes themselves.

Judge Reeves concluded with uncertainty of whether or not the charging language is complete or needs to be changed, instructing DDA Hogan to prepare a correct and concise legal guideline for the jury to be able to understand and resolve these issues of the case.

The judge said there are felonious conducts the jury needs to find and identify, so those need to be specified and defined. DDA Hogan agrees to amend, and the defense attorneys all agree to file responses to the amended complaint.

In the meantime, all  pleas were withdrawn and the demurrer hearing was continued to the morning of July 12 to allow adequate time for DDA Hogan’s amendments.

About The Author

I am a student from Southern California that's graduating this year from UC Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I worked as a court watch/ law clerk for a PEO in worker's comp cases of California warehouses. I reported the hearing summaries and outcomes to the employer and maintained correspondence with the attornies prior to and after each hearing on behalf of my boss. I have nearly completed by Bachelors in English, and I am planning on taking a break year before delving into law school to study civil rights defense.

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