Update: Anti-Gang leader Alex Sanchez Denied Bail

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We received news that Alex Sanchez was denied bail yesterday. Alex is our comrade, executive director of Homies Unidos, and co-founder of All of Us or None. He was arrested in a federal racketeering conspiracy raid in Los Angeles last week. Alex has been a leader of gang truce efforts in Los Angeles for over ten years. All of Us or None will be working with Homies Unidos and Alex’s friends and family across the nation to win his release on bail.
A website is being launched this week so people can keep updated about Alex and the fight for his freedom:
www.wearealex.com
 

Alex Sanchez Denied Bail

Prosecution Case Decried as “Weak”

By Tom Hayden
For The Nation

Anti-Gang leader has been framed in trumped up charges and now has been denied bail

Anti-Gang leader has been framed in trumped up charges and now has been denied bail

LOS ANGELES. A federal magistrate today denied Alex Sanchez bail in his gang conspiracy trial as expected, but the prosecution entered a surprisingly “weak” case according to defense counsel.

If the bail denial is endorsed by federal judge Manual Real, an appeal to the US Ninth Circuit Court could take months, keeping Sanchez in federal isolation. His defenders argue that bail denial is a violation of his equal opportunity to participate in his own defense, tipping the scales of justice against the indigent defendant, former gang member and decade-long leader of Homies Unidos, a gang prevention organization highly regarded in juvenile justice circles.

Sanchez appeared in court today chained and shackled, dressed in a white prison uniform. He made brief eye contact with his family and supporters, tapping his heart in a gesture of love and strength. He remained quiet through the proceeding.

In arguing that Sanchez was a danger to the community and a flight risk, the prosecution case revealed the core of its conspiracy case for the first time since Sanchez was arrested at home at 6 a.m last Wednesday.

In the eye of this observer, who has personally experienced and covered many past conspiracy cases, the prosecution’s narrative seemed weaker than others brought during the police and FBI’s long wars against crime, the Left, revolutionaries, anti-war activists and, more lately narco-terrorists and violent gangs. As Father Gregory Boyle argues, the problem is not so much a police conspiracy as a deep ignorance and cultural bias in the ranks of prosecutors and law enforcement. Both a conspiratorial mindset and ignorance seemed on display today, leading Sanchez’ attorney Kerry Bensinger to call the government case “weak” and “laughable.” A notably professional attorney who refuses to argue the case in the media, Bensinger reddened and shook his head at several points during the proceeding.

As evidence that Sanchez leads a “double life” as community healer by day and secret member of a hierarchical racketeering organization [mara salvatrucha] by night, the prosecutors offered the following evidence:

that Sanchez claims to support gang tattoo removal as a path out of the gang life, but has a gang tattoo across his chest. In fact, laser tattoo removal programs, which are painful, lengthy and expensive, are offered only for the hands, wrists, neck or other areas which are barriers to training and employment programs. Fr. Boyle credits Sanchez will helping 250 young people undergo tattoo removal. Sanchez openly admits he was a tattooed member of MS in the 1980s and early 1990s. [As a state senator, I authorized $2 million for tattoo removal programs.]

that Sanchez has a long criminal record. But defense counsel noted that several of Sanchez’s previous convictions have been struck down, and that those which remain are two offenses dated in 1991. Subsequently, Sanchez has not only been exonerated of past offenses in LA Superior Court, but granted political asylum by an immigration judge during the Rampart police scandal in 2002.

That a poem by Sanchez was found in papers taken by police during a house raid several years ago.

That Sanchez appeared in a 2000 photo taken at a gang peace conference in San Francisco, smiling with an associate and posing with gang signs. Attorney Bensinger noted that millions of young people, including his own kids, sometimes throw gang signs without such behavior being criminal.

That several weeks ago, Sanchez and several young men were talking and drinking after a sporting event, when police rolled up and took notes on field identification cards. There were no charges made.

On the most sensational charge of conspiracy-to-murder, the prosecution introduced an LAPD underground officer who wiretapped Sanchez, among others, without the required turning over of transcripts of the actual wiretaps to the defense. Sanchez’ attorney objected to his inability to cross-examine or obtain evidence through discovery. But the officer, Frank Flores, was allowed to take the stand anyway, in support of charges which have yet to be examined. The prosecution argued that the tapes of multiple phone calls around May 5-6, 2006, will reveal arguments, tensions and threats among several gang members, including Sanchez and Walter Lacinos, aka “Cameron”. Sanchez, according to the still-unreleased tape, is quoted as saying “we go to war”, without any further context or quotation. Lacinos was killed the following week in El Salvador by an unnamed MS member, according to the prosecution account.

A sentence such as “we go to war”, without context, could be prophecy, prediction or warning, but is hardly sustainable evidence of ordering a gang killing. The case itself may open up the shadowy world of LAPD collusion with Salvadoran police and the unsolved murders of numerous Homies Unidos members deported back to El Salvador in the past decade.

Many might ask why Sanchez isn’t simply tried for accessory to murder in the proper state or local court. The plain reason is that the evidence would be insufficient. Enter the RICO racketeering conspiracy laws, named after the gangster named “Rico” in an Edward G. Robinson film, which make guilt-by-association the basis of responsibility for concrete “overt” acts. [For example, during the 1969 Chicago conspiracy trial, eight defendants were accused of conspiring to cross interstate lines and carrying “overt acts” in furtherance of said conspiracy. It was not necessary that the eight knew each other. I was charged with the overt act of letting air out of a police car’s tires. Bobby Seale’s overt act was giving a speech in broad daylight. Jerry Rubin, if I recall, was charged with throwing a sweater at a police officer.]

Alex Sanchez will have to show that he was not an active participant in any crime and that his presence on wiretapped conversations was not evidence of murderous intent, and/or that multiple dangers precluded him from just hanging up. It is possible that the tapes themselves will unravel into garbled discussions proving nothing resembling a conspiracy. But the government will refuse to release the tapes for as many months as possible, while Sanchez remains locked away. In the end, the conspiracy may prove to be the LAPD and FBI elements who continue to blame Sanchez for causing them embarrassment in the Rampart scandal a decade ago, when they tried to imprison and deport him.

A movement to demand bail and a fair trial for Alex Sanchez was announced immediately after the bail denial, with the website www.wearealex.com . Led by Homies Unidos activists, the defense committee released over one hundred letters from Salvadoran community leaders, gang prevention groups from across the country, and an array of clergy including Father Boyle, Rabbi Allen Freehling, Rabbi Steve Jacobs, and Minister Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam, who attended the bail proceeding. #

Tom Hayden is a former state senator and author of Street Wars [Verso, 2005]

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White Cop Calls Oscar Grant a ‘Bitch Ass Nigger’ -Moments Before He was Shot

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Oscargrantgreen-225(06-28) 17:20 PDT — Overlooked in the court hearing that ended in former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle being ordered tried for murder in the slaying of Oscar Grant was testimony about another officer’s explosive outburst just 30 seconds before Grant was shot.



One of the videos made by riders at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland early New Year’s Day caught Officer Tony Pirone standing over the prone Grant and yelling, “Bitch-ass n-.”

Pirone and his attorney say he was parroting an epithet that Grant first hurled at him – though Grant’s voice is not audible on the tape.

The sound-enhanced tape shows Pirone delivering a shoulder chop to Grant and bringing him to the ground. Pirone can be heard saying twice, “Bitch-ass n-, right?”

Prosecutors showed the tape in court on the last day of Mehserle’s preliminary hearing, but the headlines went to the judge’s decree hours later that there was enough evidence to send Mehserle to trial for murder.

Under questioning from Mehserle’s attorney Michael Rains, Pirone insisted it was Grant who had first “called me a bitch-ass n-.”

Asked if he had repeated the slur to Grant, Pirone testified: “I don’t remember, but it very well may have happened.”

“Is that something you would have initiated on your own, calling him names?” Rains asked.

“No, I don’t talk like that,” Pirone said.

Oakland attorney John Burris, who is representing Grant’s family in a lawsuit against BART, called Pirone’s words “shocking and disturbing.”

“Pirone was out of control,” Burris said, “assaulting Oscar Grant and taunting him with racial slurs, and none of the other officers seemed to put him in check.”

Pirone’s attorney, William Rapoport, dismissed Burris’ assertion – reiterating that Pirone, who is white, was simply reacting in surprise to being called the “N” word himself.

Mehserle, who is white, was not accused by prosecutors or Grant’s family of a racial motive in the shooting of Grant, a 22-year-old African American whom BART officers pulled off a train after receiving reports of an onboard fight.

A spokesman for the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training in Sacramento declined to weigh in on whether Pirone’s comments would be cause for discipline or even firing, citing an internal BART probe of the shooting.

Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor and former San Francisco police commissioner, said that determining whether Pirone’s comments were grounds for discipline depends on whether he was intending to use a racial epithet or just echoing Grant in a “sense of incredulity.”

But without Grant’s voice on the tape, Keane said, “the burden of proof moves heavily to Pirone.”

The race is on: State Attorney General Jerry Brown bests San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom by 20 points in a new, two-way poll for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial contest.

The poll by JMM Research of 525 Democratic and decline-to-state voters is the first snapshot since Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last week that he wasn’t running.

With Villaraigosa in the lineup, the numbers read:

— Brown, 33 percent.

— Newsom, 20 percent.

— Villaraigosa, 17 percent.

Take the L.A. mayor out, and it’s:

— Brown, 46 percent.

— Newsom, 26 percent.

Brown does best with the voters over 40, who tend to turn out in bigger numbers on election day. Newsom thrives with the younger crowd, which he hopes to turn out big time, a la Barack Obama.

 Geographically, Brown beats Newsom everywhere but the Bay Area.

Whichever candidate they support, the one thing Democrats overwhelmingly agree on is the sad state of the state, with 73 percent saying California is headed in the wrong direction.

Budget bingo: Publicly, San Francisco’s budget battle is being pitched as a fight with Mayor Gavin Newsom, cops and firefighters on one side, and the Board of Supervisors and advocates of social programs on the other.

But behind the scenes, the fight is also between two major labor groups: the Service Employees International Union, which represents most of the city’s health and social workers, and the police and fire unions.

Service worker unions have helped elect a number of the supervisors. The police and firefighter unions are big backers of the mayor, and opposed many of the supervisors.

The first round went to the service workers when the supervisors voted to cut $82.9 million from the police, fire and sheriff’s departments and use it for health and social services.

But now, it’s dawning on everyone that the city will probably need even more money to keep everyone happy, which means going to the ballot in November with some kind of tax hike. And any kind of tax hike is going to need police and firefighter support to pass.

Which may explain why the service and firefighters unions have been meeting on the QT in the hopes of working out a compromise.

And if they do – City Hall will follow.

Banmiller bows: After taking a good, hard look at the numbers, business newscaster Brian Banmiller has decided to stay out of the race to replace outgoing East Bay Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher.

 “They weren’t kidding around when they redistricted the 10th,” the Republican said of the district, which includes portions of Solano and Contra Costa counties. “They said they were going to make it safe for Democrats, and it is.”

EXTRA! Catch our blog at www.sfgate.com/matierandross.

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Phil can be seen on the KPIX morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or e-mail matierandross@sfchronicle.com.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/matierandross/

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Beneath Low: BET, Lil Wayne Set the Stage for Child Pornography

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Beneath Low: BET, Lil Wayne Set the Stage for Child Pornography

By April R. Silver, June 29, 2009

www.aprilsilver.com 

AprilSilverLast night, live at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, a room full of head-bobbing, consenting adults bounced to Drake and Lil Wayne’s back-to-back performances of the hit songs “Best I Ever Had” and “Every Girl.” I watched, underwhelmed. I wanted more “Michael” in what was supposed to be this award-show-turned-Michael-Jackson-tribute. I watched, ever puzzled by the Lil Wayne phenomena that has captivated the music industry. I watched, wondering when the set was going to end. 

Then the little girls came onstage…literally the little girls. “Are those children?” I asked out loud, in disbelief. Then the camera panned the audience. Everyone was still head-bobbing as the little Black girls huddled around these superstars. 

“Are those little girls on stage…for this song?!?!” I, still in disbelief, lost breath and forced myself to exhale. “Why are these little girls featured on this performance? Is somebody going to stop this?” Again, the show was live, though for a nano-second, I was hoping that a hunched-over stage manager would bust through from back stage to scoop up the children, rescuing them from harm’s way…from being associated from this song. But instead, what those girls witnessed from the stage was hundreds and hundreds of adults (mostly Black people) staring back at them, co-signing the performance. These girls, who all appeared to be pre-teens, were having their 15 minutes of glam on one of the biggest nights in televised Black entertainment history, with two of pop culture’s biggest stars at the moment, with millions of people watching. They must have been bubbling with girlish excitement, shimmering like princesses all night. Pure irony: one of them wore a red ballerina tutu for the special occasion. And we applauded them. 

  

I’m told that one of the girls is Lil Wayne’s daughter. That doesn’t matter. In fact that makes it worse. Last night we were reminded that there are few safe spaces for our little girls to be children; that some of us are willing to trade their innocence for a good head nod. BET and Lil Wayne are beneath low because, in effect, they have given premium assurance to these and other little girls that their best value, their shining moment, their gifts to display to the world, all lie within a context that says they are fuckable. 

I’m also told by industry insiders that Lil Wayne was continuously sexually molested as a child, remains in a psychologically abusive relationship with the molester, and for that reason his understanding of what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate for children is terribly skewed. I don’t know if that is true. If it is, help is needed. If it is true, it might explain something regarding Lil Wayne’s compliance in this offense. But what about BET’s nickel in this dime? 

BET President and CEO Debra Lee has come underfire over the years yet many see the network as one hell bent on showing the worse pathologies of Black people

BET President and CEO Debra Lee has come underfire over the years yet many see the network as one hell bent on showing the worse pathologies of Black people

The programming at BET has been heavily criticized by artists, concerned citizens, college students, parent groups, social justice organizations, media reform activists, and many others for over a decade now. Their programming seems hell bent on broadcasting the worst pathologies in the Black community. Some have joined the anti-BET movement by simply tuning out. Others have been more pro-active. National letter-writing campaigns and other activities designed to shame and/or pressure the network into improving its programming have been in play for some time now. Boycotts have been called as well. Two years ago, for example, the network found itself in the line of fire as it planned to air the very controversial series “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Advertisers, such as State Farm Insurance and Home Depot, responded to pressure and requested that their ads be disassociated with the series (though, their ads could be placed in other programming slots). None of this has made a difference. In fact, it seems to have emboldened the network, for it is now expanding. In the fall, BET is due to launch another channel.

 

But millions of Black people are not offended by the network and welcome anything BET has to offer, no matter how much it continues to unravel the fabric of our community. Imagine, if you will, BET as a human being and the viewers as the community. You would have to imagine BET as a drug dealer, with his swag on…perhaps outside standing atop a truck, the community crowded beneath him. Imagine him throwing nicely wrapped gifts into the crowed, or giving away turkeys at Thanksgiving. Or maybe it’s Mother’s Day and he buys dinner and teddy bears to all the single moms and grandmothers around the way. Despite his best efforts and despite the approval of his fans, he is still a drug dealer, pimping death to the masses. 

Proverbs is full of sacred text that teaches us that there will always be fools amongst us. Some of them will be highly paid, protected, and given world-wide platforms to show off what they do best. And these fools (be they performers, corporate executives, or others), will have fans and loyal supporters, and a place to call home, like a BET. 

But as long as there will be fools amongst us, there will also be wise ones – a small group of people concerned about the long term health and well being of the community. This small group will often go unheard and they will be outmatched. They will struggle over which problem to address first: the child pornographer, the batterer, the pimp, the prostitute, the thief, the slumlord, or the system that enables it all. They will get tired and their defense will pale in comparison to the almost crushing offense. And they will be betrayed from within. Historically and universally, this is what happens in the struggle for what is right. But eventually, with continued pressure, something will shift. A radical new thinking will emerge, and the fools will lose their stronghold.  

The sure expectation of victory, however, can not be understated. It is a concrete ingredient in the struggle against the death that is being paraded in our community…as necessary as letter writing campaigns, economic boycotts, symbolic and actual protests, and other pressure-oriented activities. It is indeed possible to bring more life into our community.

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As a social entrepreneur and activist, my entire life/work has been dedicated to standing up for what’s right, especially within the culture of hip hop. When identifying what cancerous elements exist within the Black community, many fellow activists agree with Chuck D (of Public Enemy), and even Aaron McGruder (of The Boondocks), when they targeted BET as one of those elements. That said, I didn’t think that we would ever have to take the network to task for what amounts to child pornography. 

Lil Wayne shocked many with his performance at the BET Awards when he allowed little girls to come on stage

Lil Wayne shocked many with his performance at the BET Awards when he allowed little girls to come on stage

But did no one care that Lil Wayne’s song Every Girl is about grown men and their sexual escapades with women? Did the meaning and intent of the song matter to anyone, this song whose hook and other lyrics required a re-write in order to get air play? “I wish I could love every girl in the world.” That’s the radio-friendly version of “I wish I could f–k every girl in the world.” But Lil Wayne’s BET performance was the clean edit of the song. Perhaps he (and the show producers) thought that there was nothing wrong in featuring the children in the clean version. Perhaps we were supposed to see the whole bit as cute and innocent. Absolutely not. There’s no other way to cut it: in presenting little girls in a performance of a song that is about sex, group sex, and more sex, BET and Lil Wayne set the stage for child pornography. It doesn’t matter what version of the song was played, much like a man who batters women is still an abusive man, even if uses flowery phrases while battering.In the song, Lil Wayne mentions superstar Miley Cyrus, but Cyrus gets a pass on this lyrical sex escapade because, as he acknowledges, she is a minor. Huh? Why, then, is he comfortable with featuring four minors, these four little Black girls, in the show? How deep exactly is this inability of some men to respect women, and how deep is Lil Wayne’s disregard for the safety of little girls?