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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Norteño gang leaders immediately issue "green lights" for the assault or execution of any dropout

Two reputed Norteño gang members were ordered to stand trial Friday for allegedly stabbing a gang dropout more than 20 times and fatally shooting his brother at a party April 25, 2008. According to testimony at a preliminary hearing Friday, Jose Carranza, 22, attacked former gang member Andre Garcia, 45, in an Archer Street apartment, breaking a beer bottle over his head and yelling "This is for all D.O.s (dropouts)" as he repeatedly stabbed him in the abdomen. Three or four men then set upon him. As pandemonium broke out, Salinas police testified, Garcia's brother, George, 49, ran from the scene into the street. There he was confronted by Rene Ortiz, 22, who shot him at least 10 times. Friday's testimony was based largely on statements by two young women, identified in court as RH1 and RH2, who told police they saw the attacks from the apartment balcony. Carranza's defense attorney, Romano Clark, said the witnesses' statements were unreliable because they refused to fully identify anyone at the party — including their cousin — other than his client and Ortiz. He said their statements contradict accounts by Andre Garcia. Clark presented testimony from district attorney's investigator Chuck Hahn, who said Andre Garcia told him two weeks after the assault that he had been attacked by someone called "Sopes" and that Carranza, whom he had known since the suspect was a child, was not involved. Clark also submitted evidence, agreed to by prosecutor Christine Harter, that Andre Garcia told a Salinas police officer at the scene of the attack that he and his brother had been "jumped" by young Norteños who lived in a blue house on Buena Vista Street, not in the apartment, which belonged to Carranza's girlfriend. Clark and Ortiz's defense attorney, Bud Landreth, argued there was no evidence linking either man to the other's alleged crime, so they should not both be facing murder and attempted murder charges. On cross examination by Harter, Hahn said Andre Garcia told him he had been pressured by his wife to change his story about Carranza's possible involvement because they both feared for their family's safety. Harter called gang experts who testified that Norteño gang leaders immediately issue "green lights" for the assault or execution of any dropout because those who truly leave the gang seek protection by providing incriminating information to law enforcement. Gang members who do not act on a green light when a dropout is seen can be disciplined, officers testified. Police testified they found evidence of gang membership on both suspects, including rap lyrics written by Carranza, professing to be a "Northern Cali soldier" who will "stick you in the gut and have you crawling on the floor cause there's a green light." Harter said one of the women who talked to police said she saw Ortiz join Carranza in attacking Andre Garcia. Harter said the stabbing victim's blood was on Ortiz's sweatshirt. Carranza should be held responsible for George Garcia's killing, she said, because it was inevitable that gang members would eliminate any witnesses to a stabbing. Noting that the standard of proof is much lower at a preliminary hearing, Judge Russell Scott ruled there was sufficient evidence to hold the pair on all charges, as well as gang and weapons enhancements. He set arraignment for May 27. It was the second preliminary hearing for Carranza and Ortiz. Judge Adrienne Grover found sufficient evidence to hold them for trial in December. Harter was forced to dismiss the case and refile it when the defendants refused to waive their speedy-trial rights to accommodate her pre-planned vacation.


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