Vincent Valdez's MySpace Stupidity Cost Him 10 Years in Prison
Vincent Julian Valdez's stupidity on MySpace cost him 10 years in a California prison.
In 2007, the trigger-happy Santa Ana hoodlum with the Thug Family Life (T.F.L.) gang obviously didn't get the memo concerning stealth.
Valdez attempted to reduce his potential prison exposure after committing a series of violent crimes including two attempted murders in Santa Ana and Anaheim, getting arrested and landing in court.
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Gang membership automatically adds a whopping decade in prison for each gang-related conviction and so Valdez decided that he'd simply deny his T.F.L. membership in hopes of saving himself 20 years of extra incarceration.
But there was a huge problem. Valdez had a T.F.L. gang moniker, "Yums."
How did cops know this?
Valdez publicly celebrated his gangster life on his MySpace account, where he displayed a picture of himself making his gang's hand sign, bragged about his contempt for law enforcement, celebrated his "thug life," and on the website's "interests" section described his dedication to "mobbing the streets and hustling." He also called himself "G," shorthand for "gangster," according to police.
Kevin Ruiz, a gang expert in the Orange County District Attorney's office, captured Valdez's MySpace data and testified to the obvious: the defendant was an active gang member.
A jury convicted Valdez and Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg sentenced him to a term of 46 years to life in prison for two drive-by shootings.
He appealed, claiming numerous violations of his rights, including that jurors should never have seen his MySpace page.
This month, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana reviewed the case and gave Valdez a break.
A three-justice panel sanctioned the admission of the MySpace information in the trial, but believed the defendant's claim that the second shooting had been a personal vendetta against a Monte Black Gangster Crips hoodlum who'd dated his sister. The court erased one of the two, 10-year gang enhancements.
This means that Valdez can potentially emerge from prison during his 50s, not his 60s.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
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