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News from: City of Oakland

February 24, 2012

Court Grants Injunction in Final Phase of People & City of Oakland v. Norteños 

OAKLAND, CA – On Monday, February 21, Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman issued a preliminary injunction including all remaining defendants in the City’s lawsuit against the Norteños gang. Judge Freedman made no changes to the order submitted by the City Attorney’s Office.

The order essentially concludes the trial that commenced almost a year and a half ago when the City of Oakland filed a civil lawsuit against the Norteños – one of the most violent and notorious gangs in the city. The City asked the court to grant an injunction against 40 members of the Norteños based on their proven ties to the gang and crimes they have committed in the zone covered by the injunction.

In September 2011, Judge Freedman issued a preliminary injunction in “Phase I” of the case covering five defendants. The City Attorney’s in-house team handled the entirety of the final phase of the trial, meaning that the City spent no additional money on the case after the court issued the “Phase I” injunction.

“This order protects civil liberties while imposing restrictions on defendants that are designed to curb gang violence in Oakland, thereby saving lives and improving public safety,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said today. “I want to thank the City Attorney staff, Oakland police officers, community members and others who offered their support and worked long hours on a very complex and hotly contested case.”

Within the injunction zone covering most of the Fruitvale District, the court’s order restricts the defendants from carrying guns, threatening witnesses, selling drugs, wearing gang colors, associating with each other in public or being on the streets during late night hours (10 p.m. to 5 a.m.). There are clear exceptions to the last two restrictions for lawful activities such as work, school and medical emergencies. Violation of the order is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

In May 2011, the City Council directed the City Attorney’s Office to complete prosecution of the Norteños case and prohibited the City Attorney from pursuing any additional gang injunctions without Council approval. The City Attorney’s Office was able to avoid additional outside counsel fees in this case by engaging a pro bono mediator, retired judge Ken Kawaichi, to facilitate negotiations with defense counsel. The result of negotiations was an order that includes all remaining defendants and incorporates some minor changes to the opt-out process and to the process for serving defendants who are in custody.

The two injunctions in effect in Oakland (Norteños and North Side Oakland) are different from most of the other gang injunctions in California. Oakland’s injunctions are similar to restraining orders against individuals. Each defendant had the right to contest the lawsuit’s claims before the court, and the City had the burden of proving to the court, by clear and convincing evidence, that the gang is a criminal enterprise and that each defendant is a member of the gang. Importantly, anyone who leaves the gang can go through an “opt-out” process and seek to be removed from the order.

The 40 individuals named as defendants in the City's lawsuit have close to 200 adult arrests and at least 106 adult convictions among them. Their adult criminal convictions include: multiple cases of assault with a deadly weapon, multiple robberies, robbery resulting in great bodily injury, carjacking, shooting at an occupied home, dog fighting, fighting in public, numerous incidents of domestic violence including one resulting in traumatic injury, felony drunk driving, obstructing a peace officer by use of force, battery, carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a loaded firearm, felony possession of an assault weapon, possession of body armor, felony possession of a controlled substance while armed with a gun, felony manufacturing a weapon while in prison, discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner and many other gun crimes; also numerous vehicle thefts, drug sales, vandalism, residential and non-residential burglaries, grand theft, receiving stolen property and forgery. Most of these crimes occurred in or were committed against people who live or work in the Fruitvale neighborhood. In most cases, evidence submitted to the court included the individuals’ own claims of gang membership.

“Their behavior constitutes a nuisance in that (it) is indecent and offensive to the senses, interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property, and is injurious to the health of the people in the Safety Zone,” Judge Freedman’s order states.