Three days after the city council voted to uphold Santa Barbara’s proposed gang injunction, the city attorney’s office formally dismissed 16 of the 27 defendants, which now leaves only 11 names in the filing. On Tuesday, several dozen people packed City Hall to claim that an injunction was costly and unnecessary — among many arguments — in Santa Barbara. But only councilmembers Cathy Murillo and Gregg Hart — who have long opposed it — concurred and voted to throw out the case.
Earlier this month, three individuals — two identified as “Smurf” and “Lil Nightmare” in the court filing — had been dismissed from the injunction. At the city council meeting, Hart said that the number of people who would be affected by the gang injunction had “dropped significantly” and was approximately a dozen, but he said he could not get into specifics. “We’re spending an enormous amount of money on a disproportionate number of individuals,” Hart asserted. When the injunction was initially filed in 2011, law enforcement officials identified 30 individuals as the “worst of the worst.” About half of those were represented by attorneys, who have been working pro bono.
Criminal defense attorney Tara Haaland-Ford said many of her clients have been dismissed. “I think what they finally did was review the people that they had named and looked at whether or not those people were active gang members,” she said, explaining that there is spectrum of defendants who were dismissed. On one end is Ruben Mize, who was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison in 2011 for his role in a 2007 murder. On the other end, Haaland-Ford explained, are those who have cleaned themselves up and now have families and jobs. “I think what they did was appropriate,” she said of the dismissal. But, “when you’re looking at the trial itself, it puts them in a worse position when they have multiple defendants who were not properly named.”
Murillo argues the number of dismissals is an indication that traditional police techniques are proving effective. “I stand by my opposition to the gang injunction,” she said.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne said there were a “variety of reasons” that the 16 individuals were dropped but that he could not elaborate. Of those dismissed — “Mini,” “Psycho Mike,” “Gangster Loko,” and “Lonely Boy,” among others — none are currently in custody in county jail. “They no longer present the same kind of nuisance concerns that we originally had,” Calonne said. “We still believe that we have a strong case.”