The city’s quest for a gang injunction is likely headed toward a March trial date, a Santa Barbara judge and attorneys decided Monday. The move forward, pushed by Judge Colleen Sterne — who took over the case after Judge James Brown retired last month — means the city will forgo its request for a temporary preliminary injunction, which would have put in place the same restrictions on alleged gang members as the permanent version.
City officials unveiled the proposed gang injunction in March, explaining at the time the legal filing was intended to go after Santa Barbara’s worst gang offenders. Named in the complaint were 30 alleged gang members — the baddest of the bad, city officials said — along with the entire Eastside and Westside gangs. The injunction would prohibit the targets from associating with other gang members, possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons, using drugs and alcohol, trespassing, having graffiti tools, and recruiting in “safety zones” around the city.
Monday, assistant city attorney Tom Shapiro said the city was pursuing a temporary preliminary injunction because of the usual slow, drawn-out nature of civil proceedings. He said the city had planned to file — within a week or so — a motion about 50 pages in length, while he was anticipating a 450-page declaration from Det. Gary Siegel, supplemented by 75 to 100 pages of certified court records and declarations from other officers in support of a temporary injunction.
But the judge, noting that much of the material that would be used to prove the preliminary injunction would also likely be used for the actual trial, suggested bumping up the trial date to early next year. “My question is why do it twice,” she said.
“We don’t want to hold off…and not get a hearing on this until next fall,” Shapiro said. The judge said that wouldn’t be a problem, and after a look at her calendar, proposed March. Defense attorneys — roughly eight of them were scattered in Sterne’s courtroom — gathered to discuss, and came back in agreement that a March trial date would work. So instead of filing the motion and supporting info, the bulk of it will now become evidence and be handed over to defense attorneys as both sides now prepare for trial. Most of the city’s case will be presented in the declarations of the officers, Shapiro said, and he anticipated the trial will take just two to three days.
Earlier, Sterne upheld a ruling siding with three defendants, telling the city that it could not use information gleaned from juvenile court proceedings in pursuit of an injunction against the named individuals. Her ruling was filed under seal because of the sensitive nature of the juvenile proceedings apparently referenced in the court documents.
The ruling was a small early victory — likely for several defendants, especially those who have no adult records. Like Emmanuel Padron, for instance, who has no adult record. In a video filmed by Youth Cinemedia shortly after the gang injunction announcement, Padron said he works full-time and is off probation. “I haven’t even been active. I haven’t done anything, for like three or four years,” he said. Padron is one of three people named on the civil filing with no adult criminal record.
Roughly half of the 30 people named in the injunction are behind bars, including Marcos Ramos, who is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for possession of a firearm by a felon and possessing ammunition. He is facing up to ten years in prison on that conviction, and also has two other pending cases.
Since juvenile court proceedings will be stricken, it will be up to the people to prove their allegations other ways. Regardless of the ruling, Shapiro said, “we’re prepared to meet our burden of proof.”