Judge Says He Will Issue Injunction Against Gang

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday May 27, 2010 - 08:58:00 PM

The city of Oakland won a legal victory today when a judge said he will grant its bid for a preliminary injunction against a gang that it alleges is notorious for violence. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman said the city presented "clear and convincing evidence" that the North Side Oakland gang is a public nuisance and its members should be prohibited from conducting certain specified activities in a 100-block "safety zone." 

The injunction won't go into effect immediately because the parties involved in the case must still agree on the final wording. 

But Oakland Deputy City Attorney Rocio Fierro said it will go into effect soon. 

"We're very grateful," she said. 

City Attorney John Russo said the city is targeting the gang because of severe and increasing violence associated with the gang. He said the gang was involved in 18 serious crimes in 2009, including seven murders. 

But the ACLU of Northern California and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed friend of the court briefs opposing the proposed gang injunction, alleging that it would give the Oakland Police Department wide discretion to label people gang members without having to present any evidence to a judge or even charge them with a crime. 

The injunction applies to 15 alleged gang members that are named in the city's suit. 

The city originally named 19 suspected gang members, but four people were removed because they're already in jail for a pending triple murder case and aren't expected to get out of jail anytime soon. 

Among the injunctions restrictions against gang members are not associating with other gang members in public, not confronting or intimidating witnesses, not possessing firearms or other weapons and not participating in drug activity. 

Violating the injunction would be considered contempt of court and be a criminal misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

Russo said gang injunctions were upheld as constitutional by the California Supreme Court in 1997. 

At today's hearing, which was attended by nearly 100 people, Fierro said the case "is one of the most important in the city's history because of the public safety concerns that are involved." 

Fierro said, "We are not asking that the defendants be put in jail but instead are asking that they stop their behavior." 

She said the gang has jeopardized public safety to the extent that sometimes "people go to church with bullets going by their heads." 

Opponents of the injunction have alleged that it might lead to racial profiling, but Fierro said outside court that that's not true. He said police submitted hundreds of pages of documentation against the people named in the suit and its enforcement will be supervised by the court. 

Freedman said he will have another hearing within the next six months to review how the injunction is being implemented. 

Katz said the city is considering seeking similar injunctions against other gangs but hasn't yet filed any other lawsuits.