Pablo Lopez (The Fresno Bee)
Jun. 03, 2010
A Fresno Bulldog gang member facing a life sentence testified Tuesday that he gave his 7-year-old son a gang tattoo at the boy's insistence -- but immediately regretted the decision.
Acknowledging that he was irresponsible to let a friend ink the quarter-sized dog paw on his son's hip, Enrique Gonzalez told a Fresno County Superior Court jury that the boy admired him and wanted a tattoo like one on his shoulder.
"I let my pride get the best of me," he said.
Gonzalez's emotional testimony wrapped up his defense against felony charges that he and fellow gang member Travis Gorman, 22, committed aggravated mayhem and willful cruelty for the incident, which occurred during Easter break 2009.
Enrique Gonzalez, shown in October 2009, told a Fresno County on Tuesday it was "irresponsible" to allow his son, 7 at the time, at get a gang tattoo.
Prosecutor William Lacy contends that Gonzalez, 27, held down his son on a couch while Gorman inked a dog paw -- the symbol for the Bulldogs -- with the intent to promote the criminal street gang.
Gonzalez on Tuesday denied holding down the boy, testifying that he loves his son and wouldn't do anything to harm him. But he admitted that a tattoo such as a dog paw is the first step to becoming a gang member.
Gonzalez also testified that his feelings were hurt when his son wouldn't look at him in court. He said his son looked "like a robot" when he testified for the prosecution that his father held him down and made him get the tattoo.
"I never held down my son," Gonzalez said. "I would never do that to him."
At times, Gonzalez got upset when prosecutor William Lacy asked him whether he was a good father for letting his son hang around gang members. Gonzalez testified he grew up a Bulldog gang member in east Fresno among friends and relatives who also are Bulldog gang members. He said he no longer is a Bulldog gang member, but admitted that he had been convicted of theft-related crimes in 2006 and 2007.
"No one is perfect," he said. "I love my family."
Though Gonzalez said he never encouraged his son to be in a gang, he conceded his gang lifestyle has influenced his son, now 8, because the boy likes to draw tattoos on his body with ink and shout "eastside Bulldogs."
On the final day of testimony, Gonzalez recalled the events that led to his son getting a tattoo.
He and his son went to Gorman's home for a family gathering on April 10, 2009. Gonzalez said he also wanted Gorman to give him a tattoo.
While getting the tattoo, Gonzalez said, his son pestered him about getting his own tattoo. Gonzalez said he initially ignored the boy but was influenced by feelings of pride. He said the boy wanted a tattoo of a dog paw similar to one on his shoulder.
Gonzalez testified he knew getting a tattoo was painful, a permanent marking, and that the dog paw is the symbol of the Bulldogs. But he said his son told him he was willing to endure the pain, so he let him have the tattoo.
His son was standing while Gorman sat on a chair, Gonzalez said. He said he squatted next to his son, and his son put a hand on his shoulder for support.
In the beginning, the boy handled the pain, Gonzalez said. But after a few minutes, Gonzalez said, he could see the pain was too much. He said he told his son "not to move or the tattoo would get messed up."
Once the outline of the dog paw was done, Gonzalez said, he ordered Gorman to stop in order to save his son from more pain.
Almost immediately, Gonzalez said, he regretted his decision.
While his son proudly showed off the tattoo, Gonzalez said he feared his ex-wife would find out and prohibit the boy from visiting him and relatives. He also said school officials might find out and report it to authorities. His plan was to purchase flesh-colored tattoo ink and cover up the dog paw, but that never happened.
The boy's mother reported the tattoo to police, and he and Gorman were soon arrested.
"I was proud that my son wanted to be like me," Gonzalez told the jury of six men and six women. "He thinks I'm Superman." But he said it was "a dumb decision" to let his son get a tattoo. "I made an irresponsible decision as a parent."