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Judge Colleen Sterne

Paul Wellman

Judge Colleen Sterne


Judge Strikes Down Gang Injunction

Rules Residents Aren’t ‘Prisoners in Their Own Homes’


Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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There were no ifs, ands, or buts in Judge Colleen Sterne’s unequivocal ruling that Santa Barbara city police and prosecutors failed to make the case necessary to support the gang injunction they’ve been seeking since March 11 three years ago. Sterne faulted the gang-related data presented by various experts with the Police Department throughout the course of the 15-day trial — which officially began on Cinco de Mayo — as “flawed, unreliable, and incomplete.”

Likewise, Sterne wrote in the 32-page opinion she released Monday afternoon that she regarded the prosecution’s expert witness — attorney Gregory Anderson from Fresno and author of many gang injunctions — as “unpersuasive” in his conclusion that Santa Barbara would benefit from an injunction. Gang injunctions, she noted, are “highly particular” to their locales, and Anderson was hampered by an “incomplete” understanding of Santa Barbara.

Tara Haaland-Ford
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Tara Haaland-Ford

As for the prosecution’s most dramatic witness, Arthur Nevarez — an ex-shot-caller with an Eastside gang whom prosecutors had graphically dubbed “Mister X” — Sterne was most outspokenly critical. Nevarez had testified that the Mexican Mafia’s influence on day-to-day gang activity in Santa Barbara had been growing, claiming at one point — in what Sterne described as “a rather gratuitous statement” — that, “Word went around the jail that things should lay low to let the gang injunction cool off.”

Sterne noted that Nevarez — now serving a life sentence — had admitted he’d “manipulated the system” in getting assigned to County Jail and was seeking to strike a deal with authorities. She dismissed his testimony as “obviously self-serving,” adding, “He seemed highly interested in demonstrating his own self importance, and highly invested in his own notoriety and gang notoriety. The court questions his credibility.”

Sterne readily acknowledged that Santa Barbara has rival criminal street gangs and that their behavior constitutes a genuine problem. But, she stressed, that behavior does not rise to the level of “substantial and unreasonable nuisance,” which the law requires for purposes of imposing a gang injunction or carving out “safety zones,” in which those named would be barred from associating with one another, wearing certain clothes, hanging out in parks, or enjoying what would otherwise be constitutionally protected behavior.

“There is no evidence that residents of the proposed Safety Zones in Santa Barbara are prisoners in their own homes, remain indoors at night, prevent their children from playing outside, or whose relatives and friends refuse to visit,” Sterne wrote in conclusion.

Police and prosecutors, she said, failed to provide any witnesses to testify that they felt otherwise. By contrast, the team of defense attorneys representing those named in the injunction called four downtown residents — one a former gang member and now an activist fighting the injunction — who testified about the lack of fear they felt when walking about downtown.

For Sterne, that lack of broader community fear proved central to her ruling. Yes, she acknowledged, gang members target one another for assault, mayhem, and, on occasion, murder. The broader community, she stated, is generally spared the collateral impact. Gang code, she noted, dictates that the violence be confined to active participants. As result, she said, “The general community does not experience crime in the same way.”

Sterne also took exception to police claims that traditional law enforcement methods are inadequate to respond to the threat to public order posed by gangs. In fact, she argued that the success police have had enjoyed combating gang violence has “thwarted” their desire for an injunction. Gang crime, Sterne wrote, comprises a very small percentage of Santa Barbara’s total criminal activity and is much lower than in comparable cities. By contrast, Sterne said the safety zones proposed — which encompassed most of the east side, the west side, and downtown areas of Santa Barbara — were too large. Not only did they fail to meet legal requirements that they be “narrowly tailored,” but she expressed doubt they could be tailored at all.

She was much impressed by the testimony of UCSB Professor Edwina Barvosa, the expert witness for the defense, who argued that gang injunctions typically have very limited and exceedingly short-term benefit. Barvosa warned that in some situations, gang injunctions can create “blow-back,” perpetuating an “us-versus-them” attitude between law enforcement and Latino communities. More than once, Sterne noted the lack of public input and community buy-in before Police Chief Cam Sanchez, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider first announced they were pursuing the injunction.

At that time, Sanchez said the injunction was targeting 30 adult gang members, whom he described as “the worst of the worst.” Just before trial, however, that number was reduced to only 11. But even that, Sterne ruled, was one too many. In the case of Francisco Anaya, Sterne said there was no “clear and convincing proof of current gang membership.”

When the injunction was first proposed, Santa Barbara was coming off a wave of gang violence that left at least three noncombatants dead. Since then, the level of gang-related crime has abated substantially, and support within the City Council is far less robust than it first was. Holding up implementation has been a shifting team of defense attorneys, but always at the nucleus there was Tara Haaland-Ford and Steve Dunkle.

“I’m elated. I’m floating, “ said Haaland-Ford. “Maybe now, both sides can start working together and putting resources into programs that actually help.” She said she’d been notified by the ACLU that this is the first time the defense has prevailed against a proposed gang injunction anywhere in the United States. (Other key attorneys involved in the defense were Michael Hanley, William Makler, James Crowder, and Neil Levinson.)

Mayor Helene Schneider, who has taken considerable heat from her political base, commented, “I respect the court process. The City of Santa Barbara will continue to use every tool available to keep our residents and visitors safe while we consider the impacts and options of Judge Sterne’s ruling.” Senior prosecuting attorney Hilary Dozer, who did most of the heavy lifting in Sterne’s courtroom, said he got to present the best case he had in favor of the injunction. “She did a good job and a fair job,” he said of Sterne’s conduct of the trial. “Obviously I’m disappointed by her decision, but am I crying about it? Win, lose or draw, we got to put on our case. That’s all you can ask for.”

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Seems reasonable.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 12:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yep.

ahem (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 1:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My sister has been staying near Lafayette, Indiana where people are armed to the teeth.

No gang problem there. I wonder why.

By the way, I think the judge did the right thing.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 2:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How many Millions Wasted of $$$$$$ Dollar's?

dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 6:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Seems like a really reasonable decision.
Note to the knee jerk West Side Gang Banger apologist/everything is a racial conspiracy crowd: the judge did not rule that these injunctions are unconstitutional, but that our local group had not sufficiently made their case. Even funnier are the immediate calls for throwing more money at a group that could not give a damn about educating their kids or using peer pressure to drive the gangs out of their own community.
I agree with the reasoning of the judge. The pro injunction crowd, of which I am a member, did not make their case worth a damn.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The pro injunction crowd had no case from the start. Now is the time to increase the already effective community based policing strategy.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 8:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Agree that community policing is one necessary component. So is education at home. So is peer pressure. Sometimes, as the record demonstrates, gang injunctions are also a part of the multi faceted tool box; not in this case.

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 8:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder what George Ied would say about this idiotic decision. Oh! I guess you've all forgotten about him. Let me refresh your memory. He was the guy beaten to death, walking home from work, by some scumbag gang bangers that were just released from federal custody. I guess he wasn't a prisoner in his own home, since he was coming home from work. Too bad he never got a chance to make it home, and be imprisoned there, instead of lying dying in the streets. No gang problem? You people are dillusional.

waz (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry waz, not that I don't feel bad for what happened to the guy but I'm more scared of sharks.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pure ignorance. Do you really thing that your chances of getting attacked by a shark are actually greater than getting attacked by one of these pathetic little gangsters? Check the stats on gang violence. We don't have to go into the ocean. But, we do have to leave our homes. Don't be lame.

waz (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The sheer cost obtaining after-the-fact gang crime convictions shocks the conscience and is a direct harm to the overall public safety of neighborhoods. The court system has a direct financial incentive in this outcome funding the employment of mass numbers of court personnel in every single gang banger after-the-fact court appearance. Public monies that could be spent on prevention, Ms Murillo. But instead this tax-payer funding is diverted to the court system after-the-fact.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So you want to convict people of crimes they haven't committed but possibly might in the future?
Don't be such a scaredy-cat Jarvis.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Your straw dogs have no teeth, Volok. Get them some dentures.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

None of my neighbors would testify in favor of the injunction, and some said they supported it, because of fear. Having had my fence spray painted twice with gang insignia and Mexican mafia insignia (according to the paint store), and knowing of people around here stabbed, no way would I testify. ...Why take such a risk when you don't know whether it would have helped or not?!

at_large (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Jarvis so wrong on so many issues. Hey genius, if this insane injunction had been granted, violations of it would have resulted in court cases that would have cost plenty. How much money would have been spent on taking someone to court for wearing a Cowboy's jersey? Remember that this would have been in civil court. If a judgment was made then how much would have Ben spent to enforce it?

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Money spent on gang injunctions is public money well spent. Even the threat of the gang injunction got MS-13 to cool its jets.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Court testimony pointed out Eastside Ladies sit in the court gallery during homie gang banger trials and act as snitches on the snitches. Yes, Virginia we do have gang intimidation in this town. Plenty of it. PODER exploits this existing threat to the max.Yes, it does create scaredy cats. Woof.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The court found that Mister X was full of crap, just like Jarvis Jarvis' comments.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey Jarvis, I'm just quoting you.. you indicated that waiting for people to commit crimes then prosecuting was too costly. So either you're in favor of no enforcement or enforcement based on ESP.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It will take time for your straw dogs to get used to their new dentures, Volok. Be patient. Meanwhile get our your Dictionary/Thesaurus and look up the difference between "quote" and "indication". They are actually two different animals with different sets of teeth.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

waz - "Do you really thing that your chances of getting attacked by a shark are actually greater than getting attacked by one of these pathetic little gangsters?"

Realistically I think they are pretty close, but I do go in the ocean a lot. But I also spend a bit of time in "bad" SB neighborhoods (and have lived in them before). Have you done the math?

"We don't have to go into the ocean. But, we do have to leave our homes." - waz

I do in fact have to go in the ocean, but I do not support a shark injunction.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So you're walking away Jarvis from your original statement decrying the cost of prosecution after a crime has actually been committed?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Your call Volok: do you want to be accurate or annoying?

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 11:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So, I guess if George Ied would have had the option of swimming home, instead of walking through a neighborhood that he had every right to walk through, he still would have been killed. Why don't you also look up the number of shark attacks worldwide, as opposed to gang violence. Your comparisons are rediculous. Sharks do what sharks do. Are you saying that the behavior of these little thugs is innate, like sharks feeding in the ocean? If that's the case, we really need to eliminate the threat. There is no amount of touchy-feely crap that will turn these little hoodlums around.

"I do in fact have to go in the ocean, but I do not support a shark injunction."
-loonpt

That's right. When there is a shark attack in the area (extremely rare), steps are taken to eliminate further threat; and that doesn't mean building more community centers and midnight basketball programs for the sharks. Stop being a dullard.

waz (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 12:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My accuracy seems to be annoying you dear Jarvis....

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 12:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yep, you are annoying. Game, set match to Volok.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 12:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

waz, freedom comes with some danger. You can allow yourself and everybody else to lose their rights and personal freedoms in order to make you feel more "safe", but then you just empower the government. It's far better to empower yourself.

The government is the cause of gang violence to begin with because they have created a war on drugs that pits various groups who meet the market demand for illegal drug sales against each other in street violence. Violent street gangs exist almost solely as illicit substance distributors and they have to fight turf wars and they are required to 'police' themselves with regards to settlement disputes.

So when the government creates a problem, their favorite thing to do is come up with a new government solution instead of giving people their rights back. This creates a cycle of more and more government over-reach and less and less freedom.

But realistically, even the bad neighborhoods in Santa Barbara are some of the safest places a human could possibly exist during this time or any other time in human history. You cite ONE person who got attacked on their way home by people who happened to associated with a gang. It makes sense that people like that would occasionally commit those actions anyway, what did this have to do with a gang? Obviously gangs aren't funding themselves by robbing people on the way home from work every night, this incident you cited was an anomaly and even if it wasn't that type of crime would provide very little funding for the gangs. No, the gangs get their funding from drug money.

If you want to put the drug dealer out of business, legalize drugs.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 12:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"It's far better to empower yourself" -loonpt

Okay. I'll empower myself. The next time I have to walk through a gang infested neighborhood, I'll just carry my loaded Glock. Wait a minute. I can get arrested for that. I guess I'll decide not to break the law instead, and just live with that danger that I'm supposed to put up with (according to you). You talk about losing rights? Since when is the gang banger's right to be a gang banger more important than my right to walk through the streets for which I pay taxes, and they pay none?

"Violent street gangs exist almost solely as illicit substance distributors and they have to fight turf wars and they are required to 'police' themselves with regards to settlement disputes." -loonpt

Are you really so dillusional that you think that if all drugs were made legal, these little turds would just go out and get jobs? They would just find some other criminal enterprise to make their money. And, they would protect that enterprise by equally violent means. I suppose we should just decriminalize everything.

You seem to want to live in denial regarding our gang problem. Oh. It's just a little gang problem. It could be worse. What in Hell do you think is going to keep it from getting worse? Your bleeding heart?

waz (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 1:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So at first I was like "WTF?!" but then I realized that this IS actually a good thing, a VERY good thing!
The first and foremost part is that it is Santa Barbara (not Goleta) this is in, so it doesn't affect me.
Besides, the cops are ALWAYS busting the gang scum out here on a consistent basis. SB Co Sheriffs do a GREAT job keeping the scum in check. Saw them roust a gang scum on the bus stop the other morning while I was having breakfast before work, absolutely amusing, the gang boy was all bitter and all, pretty dang funny!
But THE best part is now these little a-holes are going to get a sense of entitlement, get a little brazen and the fireworks WILL begin!
Expect more stabbings and beatings among them, it is all they know and do it well.
My entertainment needs just got a much needed shot in the arm, let the gladiator games begin! I can only hope some of it gets caught on video so we can check it out.
As long as it is each other they attack, all good with me, they can use whatever weapon is available.
I have come to realize no injunction is really needed, Darwin will take care of the problem. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 1:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jarvis, what if a random series of events and innocuous associations suddenly made you a potential perp, as innocent as you might actually be- who gets to decide you're guilty before you've done nothing wrong and have no intention or inclination to?
Let me give you another example. I'm no Tea party fan but what if- because of some of their associates like David Lack or Armendariz were injuncted against associating etc?
It's a genie we do not want ever let out of the bottle.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 1:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gross misuse of taxpayer resources. Police Chief Cam Sanchez, District Attorney Joyce Dudley, and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider Please give your "expert" a one way bus ticket back to Fresno.

Rinconer (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

waz - " guess I'll decide not to break the law instead, and just live with that danger that I'm supposed to put up with (according to you)."

Actually I'm one of the strongest 2nd amendment supporters you will ever meet, however, I don't think carrying a gun in SB is necessary. It is actually very safe here, you are carrying on about a single crime, which while very unfortunate for that individual, one single crime is not something that laws like this are going to prevent.

Most of the gang incidents are knife related. If you really don't feel safe maybe some pepper spray, if you feel so inclined?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 2:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Pepper spray? You REALLY are clueless aren't you loony? All that pepper spray is good for is seasoning.
But I have to agree, the incidents are generally shiv related, that'll make for even more entertainment.
Like I said, it has been decided, the court has made its voice heard, law abiding citizens and law enforcement have been handed lemons.
So when you get handed lemons, you make lemonade and that tall, cool glass of lemonade is going to be the entertainment gang on gang violence will bring us.
As for Santa Barbara PD, my advice to them is let the vermin duke it out then come in and do the mop up, much safer that way.
And with all the phonecams, you just KNOW there's going to be a lot of youtube videos. LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry waz, not that I don't feel bad for what happened to the guy but I'm more scared of sharks.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.
Mr Loonpt, you can rest assured that as long as you swim in our waters, we will protect you from the sharks. We have your back covered.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 5:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah!!

Good decision. Thanks to Murrillo and Hart for bringing out the negatives on this train wreck. The police wanted the money obviously, but I'm a little surprised the mayor was so out of touch on this.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 23, 2014 at 6:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No offense to Murillo and Hart (who were both fierce political advocates against the injunction). However, it was obviously the lawyers in court who brought the negatives to the attention of Judge Sterne.

Hobbs3 (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

True that Hobbs, now time to focus on the positives: GANG GLADIATOR GAMES!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 9:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Every so often my blase life is interrupted by someone's impressive ability to show common sense. Today Judge Stern got my attention.
Thankfully she was able to see this this has a lot more to do with our Mayor's fascinations for "tools"....

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
July 24, 2014 at 6:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good decision. Stupid politicians are always trying to take away your rights to enforce their positions. The SBPD is a failure because the leadership is a failure. Why is Sanchez still there?

Enforce the immigration laws, decriminalize drugs, make all tagging a felony and we'll see a reduction in gangs. Oh, and tie the tubes of any woman under the age of 50 with tattood eye lashes. The fact that we pay these women to have children is insane. Send their felonious men back to Mexico or off to Afghanistan to prove how manly they really are...

4 years in a war zone would probably change most of these idiots ideals.

Sam_Tababa (anonymous profile)
July 29, 2014 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am a sam-fan!

garfish (anonymous profile)
July 29, 2014 at 2:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sam fan I am.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 29, 2014 at 3:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I second garfish!

onlytime211 (anonymous profile)
July 29, 2014 at 3:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Intresting how Jarvis did not comment after Kens question it's all in the comments folks..@Bill My Nephew lives in Lafayette it's like a suburb of other places that are considered dangerous..I believe that statement about armed folks the "Stand your ground" law is practiced there also..My Nephew went to Purdue on scholarship and now runs a liquor store..

Byrd (anonymous profile)
July 30, 2014 at 8:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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