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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Challenges Continue With the Gang Injunction

Judge Overrules Challenge to Injunction

One day after Judge Kathleen White overruled a demurrer as premature and not correctly targeted at the complaint, opponents of the gang injunction announced a bold new plan aimed at stripping away the core of the District Attorney and West Sacramento Police's claims about the need for a gang injunction in West Sacramento.

The Woodland Daily Democrat yesterday reported that the challenge to the gang injunction was thrown out by Judge White.

The Democrat reports:
"Defense attorney Mark Merin took issue with the injunction's prohibition on gang members associating with each other. He argued that just because a group or association might at times commit illegal acts does not give the state authority to prohibit them from associating at all and/or for legal purposes.

He drew attention to groups like Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group. Although it routinely engages in illegal acts of blockading abortion clinics, the group cannot be forbidden from associating for legal purposes such as protests and administrative meetings.

"If it were mere membership in an organization, then we would see an injunction against Operation Rescue," Merin said. "We would see an injunction against the Klu Klux Klan. But we see them meeting in public because its protected under the First Amendment."

Defense attorney David Dratman agreed and complained the injunction essentially punished the defendants before having their day in court.

"It's almost like a trial in Alice in Wonderland - 'no, no, no, sentence first, trial afterward,'" Dratman said. "It's overly broad and vague and is not supported by facts."


Merin retorted by saying the case cannot commence on flawed premises.

"You can't start off on the wrong foot and at some point hope you get it right - perhaps at the end," Merin said.

Judge White, however, disagreed and overruled the demurrer, keeping in place the complaint and the prosecution's proposed injunction.

"One has to remember this a civil court, not a criminal court," White said. "You said we can't start off on the wrong foot. Well, in civil case, actually, you can." "
Community Fighting Back

Opposition to the Gang Injunction will now go ahead with a bold new plan aimed at stripping away community support--or at the very least the law enforcement community's contention that there is a strong community support.

Organizers plan to "poll" neighbors about the need for the gang injunction. And citizens vow to fight back against police harassment.

According to a press release sent out yesterday afternoon, community members, claiming they are under "attack" by police who pushing the gang injunction, will go door-to-door, starting this weekend in an effort to gain signatures declaring opposition to the gang injunction or as this group calls it a "Proposed POLICE Injunction."

These declarations will ask people if they've really had problems with gangs, as the police claim. And then ask why they believe police and the Yolo County District Attorney are seeking the gang injunction.

These declarations come on the heals of a slew of complaints that they have been harassed by the police including charges that families are photographed at picnics in the park and children have been harassed while riding their bicycles home from school.

Community members will meet at 1 p.m. SATURDAY, at 1100 Carrie St. in West Sacramento. Assistance to them will be provided by other community groups, and members of the ACLU.


While the vigilance is to be applauded on the behalf of community groups, it might be more beneficial if an independent investigator could examine some of the charges laid forth by the community against the efforts of the police and the district attorney's office. I have heard from a variety of residents of West Sacramento on this issue over the last two years and frankly it is a very polarized and mixed bag.

The polarization often occurs down racial lines, with many Hispanics claiming that this is sheer harassment, while many whites claim that the Broderick Street Boys are basically street terrorists.

I suspect that the truth is somewhere down the middle, where the police have likely been overzealous in their prosecutions of the effort and the gangs have been a large problem as well.

I do not oppose an injunction per se. I oppose several aspects of the injunction. First it should be a criminal proceeding not a civil one. If you are going to deprive people of liberty, you should have to give them due process of law. That is what the constitution calls for. And if that is the case, then it has to be a criminal proceeding.

This is the fifth amendment:
"nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"
Due process of law requires the right to an attorney. And if one cannot afford an attorney, they are to have an attorney appointed by the court. But this right was not held up by the court in a previous ruling around the beginning of this year. The defense attorney vowed however to defend the accused at no cost to them.

I have a big problem with that ruling.

Second, the gang injunction should be based on actual crimes committed rather than association. To the use the example provided in the court case, just because an individual is associated with Operation Rescue, does not mean they have bombed abortion clinics. You have to prove that they personally bombed abortion clinics in order to punish them. If you want to make one of the penalties associated with committing crimes as a gang member, deprivation of liberties, that seems reasonable. If you want to deprive people's liberties who have committed no crimes, I have a problem with that.

Finally, they need to prove the case against individual gang members. This goes back to the originally injunction that was tossed out. They tried to ban association based on a limited number of alleged gang members being notified. They have increased that number, but each person associated with the injunction should have the right to challenge that injunction if it is to effect them. If the judge upholds the gang injunction here, is it merely the defendants it will impact or will impact all alleged gang members?

I understand people's fear of violent crime and gangs, but we have a constitution and due process in this country for a reason and from what I've seen, a threat of gang violence is not a reason to change that system of government.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting