I was in the LA Federal Courtroom on Tuesday, June 30, when bail was denied to Alex Sanchez. The courtroom, filled with Sanchez supporters, fell into a deep silence. Respectfully we remained calm as we slowly left the courthouse and building. Outside a press conference and rally was held to denounce the injustice in denying bail to Alex. He had more than 110 letters of support from former FBI officials to former gang members whose lives were turned around by Alex and Homies Unidos. He had more than $1.1 million dollars in assured surety affidavits (people committed to provide funds to assure bail) as well as one person's house as collateral (this is hard to do from poor community members with no such assets, but former State Senator Tom Hayden made this offer in the court). [caption id="attachment_463" align="alignright" width="191" caption="At the June 30 Press Conference following the denial of bail for Alex Sanchez. "][/caption] If ever there was a case to set bail, this was it. By denying bail in the face of so much support and assured funds makes the whole bail process a travesty--why even bother with bail hearings if there is no way to differentiate between circumstances? Everyone assured the court that Alex is not a flight risk--he has three children and a wife, siblings (one younger brother has cancer), and his mother in LA. If he runs to El Salvador, he would violate his hard-won amnesty and possibly face death from death squads and others who targeted Alex when he was last in the country. Alex faces serious charges but he would not risk his family and community to violate any conditions of his bail. This was clear. Still the federal magistrate went solely on the government's lawyers who claimed Alex would be a danger to the community--a claim they neither substantiated except with the flimsiest of evidence. For example, the government lawyers used Homies Unido's very effective tattoo removal program against Alex. They gave the judge a photo of Alex with "Mara Salvatrucha" tattooed across his chest. They questioned why Alex would still have this tattoo when Homies Unidos touted the strong transformative nature of removing gang tattoos. The point of fact was that Alex had removed tattoos from his arms and visible parts of his body. The MS on his chest is not visible and would he costly and extremely painful to remove. Tattoo removal experts do not recommend this. The government also produced a "poem" and photos of Alex with alleged MS members at a Gang Peace Summit from ten years before. And they cited a recent routine shakedown by police of MS members that supposedly included Alex, although Alex is known to work these streets as a gang intervention expert. No arrests were made nor any crimes alleged in this shakedown. Yet this also served to help convince the judge that Alex was a "danger" to the community. Alex, mind you, is facing serious charges, including racketeering and conspiracy to murder. The government had an LAPD police officer testify that he's heard more than two dozen wiretaps that supposedly includes Alex as several people discuss the murder of someone in El Salvador. None of those tapes were produced. The officer's testimony did not provide any hard or strong evidence that Alex was involved in any such murder. Of course, all evidence will be provided during the trial, but for the purposes of setting bail this testimony only tainted the process. Alex is facing a life sentence of he loses this case. One key issue is the wide net that the government created to pull in so-called "shot callers," members and associates of MS-13, which they consider a criminal enterprise, although there is no known hierarchal structure in an association that includes thousands of members, most of which have no ties to crimes, murders, or otherwise. That's not to say that MS members don't include murderers and criminals, but street gangs are not the same as a high-level criminal organizations. The RICO Act, meant to go after such organizations, is now being used against street gangs in which many members, if not the majority, can be provided jobs, training, tattoo removal, spiritual and material resources so that they DON'T end up in crime or prison. That's what Alex was doing with Homies Unidos. He's brokered peace. He's turned kids against gang violence and crime. He's played a major role in developing community-based gang intervention policies in LA and other cities. I've read Internet statements by people who believe whatever the Feds and other government officials claim. Remember, these are the same entities that railroaded Geronimo Pratt and many 60s activists; who murdered George Jackson and Fred Hampton, among others; who railroaded the Chicanos in the Sleepy Lagoon case and others over several decades. I can go on and on. We will keep fighting for freedom for Alex Sanchez. It will be a long and protracted struggle, but we will not give up. We are all Alex Sanchez. c/s
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