OAKLAND -- Juvenile criminal records of 40 men accused of being gang members will not be admitted as evidence in the ongoing court battle over the proposed Fruitvale district gang injunction, a judge said Monday.
The decision pleased attorneys for the defense, who have also hit some road bumps in the preliminary hearing to decide whether the city will forbid the defendants to wear certain colors, gather in public or be outdoors after 10 p.m., with jail time at stake for those who violate the order.
The defense attorneys saw one of their witnesses dismissed outright last week as having no knowledge or experience related to the case evidence, and Judge Robert Freedman has had several frustrated exchanges with the defense lawyers in recent weeks. But he appeared to agree Monday that juveniles have some extra protections.
"The court does not intend to receive into evidence information about events that occurred when any defendant was a minor," Freedman said. However, he declined to dismiss from the case an attorney working for the city who defense attorneys say accessed some records inappropriately.
Some access to such records is common practice in gang injunction hearings, though there is little case law to guide courts in deciding the issue, deputy city attorney Rocio Fierro told Freedman. The city may end up trying to call as witnesses police officers who saw the defendants commit crimes as juveniles.
"These kinds of cases require that we show a pattern of behavior," Fierro said. "What might have happened in the past is relevant."
Meanwhile, activists fighting the proposed injunction launched a week of action events Monday, hoping to build public pressure on the city's elected officials to take action against the suit.
Proponents say it would help stop gangs' terrorizing their neighborhoods and push gang members to change their lives, while opponents have argued that police are abusive and already wield too much power, and that efforts to stem violence should focus on funding school, re-entry and youth programs.
"A lot of our local youths have been working on this a long time, and I think it's going to be really empowering for them to have a week of action that's not on the court calendar, and not on the city government's timeline," said Isaac Ontiveros, a lead organizer in the opposition effort. Also planned this week are a community bike ride, a vigil for the victims of violence and a massive protest at City Hall.
Jackie Garcia, 16, is a junior at MetWest High School. She spoke at a news conference outside Fremont High School on Monday morning, saying she fears the injunction could lead to racial profiling and cost money that could be spent on other programs.
"We have after-school programs being cut, and not as many electives as we used to," Garcia said. She described a close friend who got involved with a gang as he got older, becoming involved with illegal drugs and failing at school. He ended up in a semester-long camp program called The Woolman Semester, where he is making up lost credits and getting his life together, Garcia said.
Candice Valenzuela, an English teacher at Fremont, also spoke, saying the school's budget is so bad students often can't even get basic learning tools.
"(The budget) sends the message to youth that they are not important, not valuable," she said. "That message informs their behavior," becoming a root cause of violence among local youth, she added.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo has said the injunction is not enough by itself to solve the city's violence problem, calling it "a piece of the puzzle" that also includes social services, education and after school programs.
He's also said he understands concerns about gang injunctions and racial profiling, and so tailored his own efforts to require that any individual subject to the injunction will have to be named as a defendant and proven in court to be a gang member and a public nuisance.
The issue is continuing to move through court, but the City Council is done taking action on the issue for the time being. A public safety committee meeting ended last week with Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) becoming the first council member to openly oppose the injunction, but no actions were decided on and no other plans involving the issue are currently scheduled to come to the City Council.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.
Tuesday: Bike rides around the proposed injunction safety zone begin at East Side Arts, 2277 International Blvd. at 3:30 p.m. and at Bushrod Park, Shattuck Avenue and 59th Street, at 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Workshops in Oakland schools culminate in a concert at East Side Arts at 7 p.m.
Thursday: The Stop All Violence Vigil at Lake Merritt el Embarcadero (between Grand and Lakeshore avenues) begins at 5:30 p.m.
Friday: Hundreds are expected at a rally outside City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, at 4 p.m.