Update: Anti-Gang leader Alex Sanchez Denied Bail



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:

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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The Dubious Arrest of Homies Unidos Leader Alex Sanchez

The Dubious Arrest of Homies Unidos Leader Alex Sanchez

By: Roberto Lovato  

Alex Sanchez is one of the most respected gang intervention leaders in the country. LA Police Chief Richard Bratton has been jealous and been targeting Sanchez for years.

Alex Sanchez is one of the most respected gang intervention leaders in the country. LA Police Chief Richard Bratton has been jealous and been targeting Sanchez for years.

Today’s FBI arrest of Alex Sanchez, one of the most respected gang intervention leaders in the country, has raised major concerns in Los Angeles and around the country. As his wife and children watched, Sanchez, who leads Homies Unidos, a violence prevention and gang intervention organization with offices in Los Angeles and El Salvador, was arrested and taken away by FBI agents this morning at his home in Bellflower. The federal charges- being a “shotcaller (someone who manages narcotics operations) for Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and conspiring to kill Walter Lacinos, an MS member shot and killed in El Salvador in 2006- have raised fears and great concerns among the many who’ve known and worked with Sanchez over the years, including myself.

First and foremost among the concerns in the community are concerns for Alex’s immediate safety. As a former gang member who works to help others leave gang life, Alex faces great danger in whatever LA County facility he’s held in-even if he’s put under Protective Custody (PC). Law enforcement authorities have an axe of historic proportions (see Rampart scandal) to grind against Alex and some have demonstrated a lethal propensity towards retribution. Known as “Pecetas”, those held under PC are considered by many gang members to be informants and, therefore, legitimate targets for direct retribution from gang members -and direct and indirect retribution from police.

For more reasons than I have time to enumerate here, I for one do not believe the charges. Rather, I think that these recent accusations are but the most recent in the long, rotten chain of attempts by law enforcement officials to frame Alex, who was regularly beaten, framed, falsely arrested, deported and harassed by the Los Angeles Police Department since founding Homies Unidos in 1998. First and foremost, I spent the evening calling those who know and have worked most closely with him, and they ALL share that sense that, as one of his best friends told me, “He really is a good person.” I’ve known him for years and will be sending a strongly worded support letter like the many I’ve sent over the course of the many years and many frame-ups law enforcement has ravenously pursued. Those close to Homies and Alex know and are again feeling that cloud of anger and concern that comes with being harassed by authorities abusing the power delegated to them.

Also, Alex is alleged to have conspired to kill Walter Lacinos, who sources in the Salvadoran and gang communities tell me had, in the words of one gang expert interviewed, “many, many enemies in the U.S.-and El Salvador.” While most of charges levelled against most of the the 24 other plaintiffs point to physical acts and evidence, the one and most serious indictment (see full indictment here) naming Alex alleges that he participated in “a series of phone conversations” in which the possibility of killing Lacinos is discussed. No proof is offered to corroborate the charges relating to managing narcotics operations for MS.

Lastly, the sensationalistic judgements of many media and some law enforcement officials raises serious concerns, as well. Close scrutiny of the media coverage reveals an definite disposition to judge and convict Alex even before his trial begins. For example, almost all of the coverage follows uncritically the logic laid out in the indictment. No attempt is made to notice that, for example, Alex is not named in most of the 66-page indicment. Other plaintiff’s names appear throughout. Those reading reporting in the LA Times and other outlets might come away believing that Alex might be involved in the murder of seven people or in conspiring to kill another 8. Consider this note from today’s LA Times:

The arrests cap a three-year investigation into the gang and its cliques, which operated in the Lafayette Park area, west of downtown. Among the most serious allegations contained in a 16-count federal indictment unsealed today was the claim gang members conspired to murder veteran LAPD gang officer Frank Flores.

Those named in the indictment include Alex Sanchez, a nationally recognized anti-gang leader and executive director of Homies Unidos.

Notice how there’s zero attempt to clarify or give greater context to Alex’s story, even though he headlines most of these stories. Even worse is the way that law enforcement authorities like L.A. Police Chief Bill Bratton, who the Times tells us has a big “I told you so” for the city, use Alex’s case to build the case for punitive-and failed-anti-gang policies,

LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said the Sanchez case reinforces the thinking behind the city’s efforts to consolidate and more strongly regulate anti-gang funding.

Bratton is no stranger to racially charged policing policies in New York or in Los Angeles (ie; Bratton was roundly repudiated when he first tried to apply the “terrorist” frame to L.A. gangs). Neither he nor any other L.A. official has accepted responsibility for helping create Mara Salvatrucha in L.A. and El Salvador, a country with no previous history of gangs before LAPD collaborated with immigration authorities to deport Mara members. Adding fuel to the fire burning to replace the anti-gang work of Homies Unidos with more punitive, law enforcement-centered approaches favored by Bratton and his, boss, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, are reports like this one which have begun a non-profit and politico witch hunt even before Alex has seen a single day in court. Rather than look more deeply into the charges, media, political and police personalities appear bent on assuming Alex’s guilt and then waving this alleged guilt as if it’s a flag at the front of the contemporary equivalent of a witch hunt.

Although the story of Alex Sanchex touches upon people and issues-immigrants, gangs, Salvadorans- that are explained-and dealt with- simplistically, dangerously, the leadership of Los Angeles must speak out in defense not just of Alex, but of a fundamental principal of a just society: that you are innocent until proven otherwise.

Much more on this important issue in weeks and days to come.

written by  Roberto Lovato   |   Of América   |   June 25, 2009


Added note here’s an excellent assesment of things.. it was in the comment section of LA Times

Is it so hard to believe that the LAPD targets Gang Interventionist? Remember Rampart? Lawsuit paid by us, the tax payers, to victims of LAPD range in the $100 millions for years! If im not mistaken, it’s now down to about $60 to $75 million in 2008 because of the Descent Decree, Community Activist and Chief Bratton ( in that order). 

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Due in large to the “Gang Peace” movement and activist like Alex Sanchez ( Sanchez using his influence to stop many, many killing and retaliation), Los Angeles is not even on the most violent city list after 20 years! Do you know how much the City allocate toward high risk Intervention program like Homies Unidoes annually? about $3.5 million…..and that’s for the entire City! (Check it for yourself). I bet you thought it was $24 million, the bogus number that you here in the media. Compare that to what “WE”, the tax payers paid in lawsuits for LAPD last year….. I say “we” because for some reason some of you who commented of this story speak as if you are the only one paying taxes! There is no comparison when you analyze $3.5 million to $60 million (these are lawsuit, im not mentioning the Billion dollar budget that LAPD has)! Rather you are Liberal or Conservative…..we are all being taken advantage of because we fail to do our research. So what’s the real issue? Over paying Law Enforcement for a job they cant do? or under-investing in PEOPLE in communities to resolve their own problems? you choose.

Im not trying to find someone to blame, im only laying out the facts. I, like Alex and many other Fathers in our community are seeking to find balance and alternative solutions to the conflicts that have raged out of control for decades in our neighborhoods. Yes, we take responsibility for the role we played in our own wounding. And Yes, we are equally prepared and skilled to provide the solutions to our own healing. Why is this not exceptable? who is more qualified to provide healing and solution to urban street gang wars then those who have healed from their childhood truama that had them gang banging in the streets? Oh, you think that gang violence is the problem? Sorry, Gang violence is only the symptom of the real problem which is rooted in the sexual, physical and psychological abuse we have ALL suffered, in many cases at HOME first. You think your different because you grew up on the “West Side” or Signal Hills? In South Central the Sexual, Physical and Psychological abuse expresses itself as HOMICIDE, in affluent communities SUICIDE. Just opposite sides of the same coin. WE ARE THE SAME! You know why, because sexual, physical and psychological abuse are all tools of COLONIZATION…..The U.S. was built on violence, starting with the Manifest Destiny (massacre of Natives, enslavement of people of Africa Descent and the spoon feeding of the lie of “supremecy” to people of European Descent) and still is the most violent country on the planet. Have we forgotten? I consider gang culture the “shadow” of our great nation:-)…..neither perpetration of violent acts are right, however to blame is to sustain the ignorance that duality has created.

We are still playing out the slave masters games on each other. Whether Alex is here illegally or not ( We are a country of immigrants!), he is a good man, a GREAT Father and a TAX PAYER! He deserves the right to have his day in court to prove himself innocent against these allegation. I admire him for the sacrifices he’s made in his community to stop the killing against all odds. and the message of peace he has taken back to his mother country(El Salvador) under death treats…For those who have something to say negative about this man and dont know him…Your feet would dangle in his shoes!

He is Innocent until proven guilty……That’s American!