A federal magistrate yesterday denied Alex Sanchez bail in his gang conspiracy trial as expected, but the prosecution entered a surprisingly “weak” case, according to defense counsel.
If the bail denial is endorsed by federal judge Manuel Real, an appeal to the US Ninth Circuit Court could take months, keeping Sanchez in federal isolation. Sanchez’s defenders argue that bail denial is a violation of his equal opportunity to participate in his own defense, tipping the scales of justice against the indigent defendant, former gang member and decade-long leader of Homies Unidos, a gang-prevention organization highly regarded in juvenile justice circles.
Sanchez appeared in court yesterday chained and shackled, dressed in a white prison uniform. He made brief eye contact with his family and supporters, tapping his heart in a gesture of love and strength. He remained quiet through the proceedings.
In arguing that Sanchez was a danger to the community and a flight risk, the prosecution revealed the core of its conspiracy case for the first time since Sanchez was arrested at home at 6 am last Wednesday.
In the eyes of this observer, who has personally experienced and covered many past conspiracy cases, the prosecution’s narrative seemed weaker than others brought during the police’s and FBI’s long wars against crime, the left, revolutionaries, antiwar activists and, more recently, narco-terrorists and violent gangs. As Father Gregory Boyle argues, the problem is not so much a police conspiracy as a deep ignorance and cultural bias in the ranks of prosecutors and law enforcement. Both a conspiratorial mindset and ignorance seemed on display today, leading Sanchez’s attorney Kerry Bensinger to call the government’s case “weak” and “laughable.” A notably professional attorney who refuses to argue the case in the media, Bensinger reddened and shook his head at several points during the proceeding.
As evidence that Sanchez leads a “double life” as community healer by day and secret member of a hierarchical racketeering organization (the gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS) by night, the prosecutors offered the following evidence:
•that Sanchez claims to support gang tattoo removal as a path out of the gang life but has a gang tattoo across his chest. In fact, laser tattoo removal programs, which are painful, lengthy and expensive, are offered only for the hands, wrists, neck or other areas that are barriers to training and employment programs. Father Boyle credits Sanchez with helping 250 young people undergo tattoo removal. Sanchez openly admits he was a tattooed member of MS in the 1980s and early 1990s. (As a state senator, I authorized $2 million for tattoo-removal programs.)
•that Sanchez has a long criminal record. But defense counsel noted that several of Sanchez’s previous convictions have been struck down, and that those which remain are two offenses from 1991. Subsequently, Sanchez has been not only exonerated of past offenses in LA Superior Court but granted political asylum by an immigration judge during the Rampart police scandal in 2002.