Hearing to decide fate of Fruitvale gang injunction to be continued
on February 17, 2011
A hearing Wednesday to determine whether to impose a preliminary injunction against 40 alleged members of the Norteño gang in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood ended without a decision and will be resumed next week.
City Attorney John Russo has sued these alleged Norteño gang members in hopes of creating a “safety zone” of two square miles, in which they would not be allowed to associate with one another or wear clothing with gang colors. They would also have to abide by a 10 p.m. curfew. This would be Oakland’s second gang injunction—the city approved the first one in North Oakland in June.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman heard two witnesses, including defendant Javier Quintero and gang injunction expert Barry Krisberg, testify at the Wednesday hearing in the Alameda County Courthouse. In the packed courtroom, the first three rows were filled with 16 defendants, with relatives and opponents of the injunction sitting behind.
Attorney Michael Siegel and his defense team are representing 27 of the 40 alleged gang members. “This [preliminary injunction] will impact many thousands of people who deserve to have their rights protected,” Siegel said before Wednesday’s hearing. “We’re saying there’s not an emergency. In terms of civil process, we’re saying we should wait until there’s a trial.”
There is no date set yet for the Fruitvale gang injunction trial. A decision to enforce the North Oakland injunction proposed last year is set for October, with a decision on the Fruitvale injunction expected in November.
Quintero, 27, told the court he started parole in 2008 after his first offense, a felony conviction for possession of marijuana. He’s had one violation since then, which he served four months and 20 days for. “I’ve been clear ever since,” he said. But in July, he said, parole officers came to his house, upped his security and put a GPS bracelet on his leg.
His lawyer, Dennis Cunningham, asked him if he is an active member of the Norteño or any other associated gangs. “No,” Quintero said, “I talk with people since we are little kids. That might be some kind of association.”
Prosecuting attorney Tricia Hynes brought up incidents when the police reported seeing Quintero associating with Untouchable gang members, a branch of the Norteño gang, and being connected to a drug and weapons bust near his home.
“If a police officer reported that you admitted [being a gang member] to him, would he be lying?” Hynes asked.
“Yes,” Quintero replied.
He later concluded, “I think it’s a waste of time, I think there are other people that really need it. My GPS tells you where I’m at, I don’t see why you need more than that.”
Alex Katz, the communications director for the City Attorney’s office, said after the hearing, “He testified that he is not a member of the gang, even though he has told three police officers on three separate occasions that he is.”
After Quintero’s testimony and a short recess, Barry Krisberg, the defense team’s chosen expert witness on the effectiveness of gang injunctions, was called to the stand. Krisberg said he has worked with 13 California cities on gang reduction strategies and in his opinion gang injunctions do not work. However, he said had no direct knowledge of the Norteño gang or the Fruitvale injunctions.
After a brief discussion with the attorneys, Judge Freedman disqualified Krisberg as a witness, saying that despite Krisberg’s impressive resume, “I’m focusing on the legal issues and I haven’t seen anything, with respect to the witness, about the specifics of this gang, the injunction or the safety zone.”
The hearing ended with Cunningham asking the judge that the defendants’ mug shot photos not be published in the news, which evoked a cry of agreement from the defendants sitting in the courtroom. One defendant yelled he’d lose his job if photos of him were published and then stormed out of the courtroom.
Injunction opponents are expected to come to Oakland City Council’s public safety committee meeting on Tuesday. The City Attorney’s office will make a presentation about the cost and effectiveness of the injunction in North Oakland and the proposed order in Fruitvale.
The preliminary injunction hearing continues Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
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