Proposed Fruitvale gang injunction hearing wraps up testimony
on April 12, 2011
Testimony about the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction hearing concluded on Monday after two months of witness appearances by alleged Norteño gang members, gang experts, and police officers. Probation Officer Dalen H. Randa, who testified on Monday, was the last witness to be called to the stand.
With the testimony complete, attorneys now have 10 days to file briefs regarding the hearing and three weeks to prepare for their closing arguments, which will happen on May 4. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman is calling the testimony he’s heard so far, along with the subsequent decision he’ll make as to whether or not to enforce the injunction, “phase one” of the hearing.
In making his decision, Judge Freedman said he will focus on the two alleged gang members who have been called as witnesses — Javier Quintero and Abel Manzo. There are 38 other alleged gang members named in the injunction, and the judge said he is considering holding a second phase of the hearing that would include testimony from any other alleged gang member who wants to take the stand.
Defense attorneys brought Quintero and Manzo as their first witnesses because they believe the Oakland City Attorney’s office has the weakest case against the two men. Throughout the course of the hearing, the defense has tried to show that Quintero and Manzo are not active gang members and only have non-violent criminal records. The prosecution has argued that although they’re not explicitly involved in violent crimes, both men have strong ties to the Norteño gang and are active members.
City Attorney John Russo brought the case against the 40 alleged gang members in October in hopes of curbing violent gang activity in the Fruitvale neighborhood. If Freedman decides to impose the injunction, the 40 alleged gang members’ movements would likely be limited within a defined 450-block “safety zone.” Rules would be a 10 p.m. curfew, not wearing gang colors, not having gang tattoos, not associating with one another along with other restrictions. The judge could also choose to allow the injunction but to exclude Quintero and Manzo.
Probation Officer Randa, who continued his testimony on Monday after initially being called to the stand on March 22, testified that he believes the gang injunction would be an effective tool in helping him do his job. Randa, wearing an American flag pin on the lapel of his dark gray suit on Monday, has worked with gang members for the last four years. He is a deputy probation officer assigned to the Oakland gang task force and carries a caseload of about 50 probationers—one of whom was Manzo.
Randa testified that he began supervising Manzo in November 2006 when first he saw him standing on the street with five other men, in known gang territory, wearing a red T-shirt.
“When I chose him to my caseload, it was on the spot,” said Randa. That day, as the police car Randa was in pulled up, Manzo and his friends began to walk away, Randa testified. So, Randa said to Manzo, “Hey come back here. I need to talk to you.” Then he told Manzo that he was his new probation officer.
Before this, Manzo, who had a 2004 felony arrest for marijuana possession, was classified as an “as needed” probationer, which meant he wasn’t supervised and didn’t need to check in with the police department. After Randa became his probation officer, things got stricter. On January 2007, his probation was modified to include gang conditions, which consisted of not wearing gang colors, not loitering and not associating with known gang members.
During the three years Randa served as Manzo’s probation officer, Randa issued Manzo with several probation violations—including failing to report, embezzlement, a traffic offense, owning gang clothing, and going to a funeral with known Norteño gang members. But in October 2009, Randa made the decision to put Manzo back on as an “as needed” probationer after Manzo agreed to attend a gang reduction program.
“I wanted to give him a further chance to change his life,” Randa said. “It would be one less restriction for him that he might consider holding him back.”
Although Randa testified that he still believes Manzo is a Norteño, he said, “I continue to be hopeful about Mr. Manzo, I think he’s a bright young man.” Manzo’s probation for his 2004 crime ends on May 30.
After the hearing ended on Monday, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s office, Alex Katz, said that since the city filed the injunction, 16 of the 40 defendants have had new arrests for crimes including attempted murder, burglary, weapons possession and parole violations.
“We’re hoping to get this injunction into place as soon as possible,” he said. “Especially because some of the defendants in this case still seem like they’re pretty dedicated to continuing criminal behavior in this neighborhood.”
Defense attorney Yolanda Huang disagreed and maintained that her clients are not gang members. “Just because you commit a criminal act doesn’t make you a gangster,” she said.
Closing arguments for “phase one” of the preliminary Fruitvale gang injunction hearing will be on Wednesday, May 4 at 2 pm at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
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