A Fair Trial Starts With Bail: Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos, Denied Bail, Again

By Jorge Rivas Oct 20, 2009

A few months ago we wrote about anti-gang activist Alex Sanchez’s arrest on federal charges of racketeering and conspiracy. Sanchez is a former gang member and decade-long leader of Homies Unidos, a gang-prevention organization highly respected in juvenile justice circles. Now, Sanchez has been denied bail for the second time. Sanchez is held under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO), a U.S. federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Alex Sanchez is guilty until proven innocent. US Ninth Circuit Court Judge Manuel L. Real denied Sanchez’s bail yesterday because of claims that Sanchez is a flight risk. Judge Real refused to release Sanchez’s based on the view that Sanchez’s widespread support from the community indicates that he would have access to sufficient resources to flee the country.
In July, Wisconsin Senator Tom Hayden detailed the evidence used to support the accusations brought against Alex Sanchez for The Nation. The evidence includes:

•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. •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. •that a poem by Sanchez was found in papers taken by police during a house raid several years ago. •that Sanchez appeared in a 2000 photo taken at a gang peace conference in San Francisco, smiling with an associate and posing with gang signs. Attorney Bensinger noted that millions of young people, including his own kids, sometimes throw gang signs without such behavior being criminal. •that several weeks ago Sanchez and several young men were talking and drinking after a sporting event when police rolled up and took notes on field identification cards. There were no charges made.

WeAreAlex.org, a group started after Sanchez’s arrest say they "will not be defined by law enforcement’s misguided definitions and perceptions of the validity of our peacemaking work. There is a fundamental lack of understanding of this critical work. The denial of bail today has increased our commitment to raising awareness of proven violence reduction approaches." — WeAreAlex.org also believes under RICO, the government does not have to provide actual evidence that Alex committed the alleged crimes, but simply must convince the judge and jury of the possibility that Alex conspired to commit the crimes. WeareAlex.org have also presented their own facts to refute the claims addressed above.

• Over $2.5 million in sureties and property deeds have been raised by the community. In the case that Alex was to flee, those who put up their own property and money would lose their property and money as well as be sued by the court. This demonstrates the community’s trust that Alex would attend every court hearing, not assist him in fleeing. • Over 120 letters of support, including those from former federal prosecutor Robert Garcia and Tom Parker, the past head of the FBI in Los Angeles, prove that Alex is not a flight risk. • Judge Real denied Father Gregory Boyle, one of the leading gang experts in the country and the Executive Director of the largest gang intervention agency in the country, the opportunity to speak to the contents of the government’s wiretaps and the explanation of Alex’s role as a peacemaker within these conversations. Judge Real deemed his analysis as "irrelevant" and did not allow him to even speak.

Father Gregory Boyle listened to the tapes in detail and re-translated the tapes with an understanding of the colloquial terms used by gang members in Los Angeles. From the "Declaration of Father Greg Boyle Filed in Support of Defendant Sanchez’s" via witnessla.com:

The government and Detective Flores completely omit and ignore one of the most important — if not the most important — sections in these calls: the clear and unequivocal statements by participants in the calls that Mr. Sanchez is not an active gang member. This omission, in and of itself, raises concerns in my mind about the balance and fairness of the government’s and Detective Flores’s presentation. It is unlikely, if not impossible, the government and Detective Flores overlooked this part of the calls. More likely, they did not make mention of these statement because the recorded statements undermine their conclusions.

Wearealex.org believes "RICO, Judge Real, and our country’s court system have denied justice once again" and they vow to keep fighting, "we are not deterred. we are committed. we will continue to fight until alex is free. we are alex." www.wearealex.com twitter.com/wearealex