Gang injunction hearing continues as more witnesses take the stand
on March 3, 2011
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman heard testimony from three more witnesses on Wednesday about the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction. The witnesses included a police officer involved in investigations of alleged gang members, the sister of an alleged gang member and a tax enforcement officer for the City of Oakland.
So far, during the course of the on-going hearing that began in February, Judge Freedman has heard from five witnesses over three days. There’s still no end in sight as to when the hearing will conclude and the judge will decide whether to impose the injunction against 40 alleged Norteño gang members in the Fruitvale neighborhood.
If imposed, the proposed gang injunction would create a “safety zone” of two square miles in which alleged gang members would have to abide by a 10 pm curfew, could not associate with one another or wear clothing with gang colors, among other restrictions. The goal of the injunction is to curb crime perpetrated by the Norteño gang in the Fruitvale neighborhood.
The injunction includes an “opt out” clause, under which people named in the injunction can try to show in court that they have no gang affiliations and that their name should be stricken from the list. During this hearing, some of the defendants named in the injunction that have been called to the stand as witnesses have tried to show the court they have no gang ties.
On Wednesday, the court first heard from Esmeralda Quintero, the sister of Javier Quintero, an alleged gang member named in the injunction. Javier Quintero previously testified that he is not a gang member. His defense lawyers called his sister to the stand to testify that police presumed her brother was a gang member when he was not. During her testimony, Esmeralda Quintero told the judge that she lives with her brother and has not seen him involved in gang activity.
On the stand, Esmeralda Quintero spoke about the time her brother was arrested in connection with a 2008 drug and weapons seizure at a shed located one block from the house where the Quinteros live. At the time of this incident, Javier Quintero was on parole for a felony conviction for possession of marijuana; after the incident he was charged with a parole violation and served four months time.
During his arrest at the shed, Esmeralda Quintero said she witnessed her brother lying handcuffed facedown on the ground with arresting OPD officer Douglass Keely allegedly standing on his back with both feet. She testified that Keely asked her if she knew that Javier Quintero was a gang member. “I said no, he was not,” she said. The she said that Keely told her, “Javier is a bad person and [Keely would] do what it would take to send him to jail and make him stay there.”
Oakland deputy city attorney Rocio Fierro sought to discredit Esmeralda Quintero’s claim by pointing out that in the complaint Esmeralda Quintero subsequently filed with the OPD’s internal affairs department, she stated that her brother was in a police car when she first saw him after his arrest. There was no mention of Keely standing on Quintero’s back. “That was a mistake,” Quintero replied, referring the fact that she did not include that detail in her complaint.
When Officer Keely, who investigates Hispanic gang crime for the Oakland Police Department, took the stand, Javier Quintero’s defense attorney Dennis Cunningham, who represents 27 out of the 40 alleged gang members, asked him why he put Quintero face down on the ground. “We thought that was a tactical smart thing to do,” Keely said.
“She said you were standing on him,” Cunningham said, indicating Quintero’s sister.
“No,” said Keely.
When Cunningham asked Keely if he told Esmeralda Quintero that her brother is a bad person who belongs in jail, Keely said that he doesn’t remember. Keely then added that because he arrested Quintero during this incident near a large cache of weapons, “Yes, I believe he’s a bad person and he belongs in prison.”
Cunningham pointed out that Quintero’s arrest record has been clear ever since the 2008 incident.
In addition to giving testimony on his dealings with Javier Quintero, under questioning from Cunningham, Keely also explained his involvement with the proposed gang injunction. He said he has worked with about 20 other police officers to delineate the borders of the proposed safety zone and to target crime hot spots. This includes what he calls the “dirty 30s,” which are some of the avenues that he said the Norteños claim as their territory. “We’ve taken a narrow area and shown a high rate of crimes going on in the zone,” he said. “It engulfs all those hot spots, it closes them all off.”
Keely said he has also helped put together the list of alleged gang members who were named in the injunction when it was initially proposed by the Oakland City Attorney’s Office. Keely said that he uses crime reports and informational summaries when deciding whether someone is an active gang member or not. “It’s not just where you’re standing and what color you’re wearing,” he said. “It’s going to be a totality of things and it’s not simplistic.”
Keely ended his testimony for the day by saying he would help Javier Quintero sever his alleged gang ties. “If he wants to go to the opt-out program, I’d love to help him,” Keely said. “Anybody we can get out of the gangs and get out of this lifestyle… I’m all for that.”
After the hearing, Cunningham said that all of the alleged gang members he is defending are trying to leave behind any sort of life involved with crime, pointing out that it has been two and a half years since Javier Quintero has been arrested. “They [the police] want to brand guys and get them into prison,” he said.
The hearing will continue next Wednesday, March 9 at 9:30 am with additional testimony from Officer Keely and possibly more witnesses being called to the stand.
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