The DA's office served a re-packaged permanent gang injunction this morning to dozens of people it has concluded are active gang participants in the Orange Varrio Cypress gang, including 62 individuals whose gang injunction cases the DA had already dismissed last month and who believed they were no longer subject to the injunction. (See our coverage here.)
Lead assistant DA John Anderson in charge of gang injunctions says those dismissals only meant that the individuals would no longer have their names permanently attached to a lifelong gang injunction. The probation-like terms of the injunction could still be applied to them, he says, and wil be beginning today.
"I'm very upset about this," said Yvonne Elizondo this morning from her office as calls were flooding in. The community activist in Orange who works with at-risk youth led the fight against the injunction that was served in February.
After several court hearings, protests from the community, petitions, and the recruitment of high profile defense lawyers (including the ACLU), the DA dismissed the cases, in mid-May, of all those who filed petitions denying that they had any affiliation with the gang the DA had sued with an injunction back in February. The cases were dismissed one day before the DA's office had to submit discovery materials to the ACLU, whose lawyers were representing a handful of those named on the injunction and were preparing to go to trial in July.
Although speculation quickly swirled around the DA's timing, and the potential weakness of the DA's cases in trial, Anderson said the dismissals were part of a larger plan to "altar" the course of how the county would handle injunctions in the future.
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The new plan is to go the way Los Angeles, and the rest of Calfiornia has gone for years and name the whole gang, and not individuals, in the lawsuit. The DA and police department then serve the injunction on an ongoing bases to people they conclude are affiliated with the local gang. The DA had previously balked at the way this approach was handled in LA. Anderson says the main point of contention was with the fact that LAPD officers could hand out injunctions without consulting with the DA's office first. The ACLU has objected to this approach because it makes it virtually impossible for individuals to go to civil court and have the injunction not apply to them.
"The easiest way to not have the gang injunction enforced on them is to not continue being active participants of the gang," says Anderson. But all of those defendants who denied having any affiliation with the gang in February, and whose cases were dismissed, are now included in the permanent injunction, and are on the radar of Orange PD as active gang participants.
ACLU attorney Belinda Helzer said last month that they anticipated a move like this by the DA's office and would be fighting the DA's new injunction if it was served against individuals whose cases the DA already dismissed.
Calls to the ACLU have not been returned this morning. Look for an update later today...