Questions delay ruling on injunction:
Judge asked to explain portions of decision on Colonia Chiques
By Marjorie Hernandez, mhernandez@VenturaCountyStar.com May 3, 2005
A request from defense attorneys Monday has delayed a Ventura County Superior Court judge’s decision whether to make the gang injunction permanent against the Colonia Chiques.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn asked Judge Frederick Bysshe to discuss six additional points in his tentative decision that could impose an injunction in the La Colonia area of Oxnard.
Bysshe released his tentative decision April 22. The decision has to be made final by the court before an appeal could be filed, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Schwartz.
In his request, which was filed late Monday afternoon, Quinn asked Bysshe to address terms within the injunction and explain why the actions constitute a public nuisance.
“We had the trial … and the judge made his decision,” Quinn said on Monday. “This is our chance to make suggestions to the court in areas he has not explained. He made a general decision and did not address each one. We are asking for a closer look and consideration.”
Under the injunction terms, alleged Colonia Chiques gang members who are served cannot associate with other members, wear Dallas Cowboys attire, stay out past 10 p.m. or engage in other gang-related activities in the safety zone.
Those who are arrested for violating the injunction could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The temporary injunction covers a 6.6-square-mile “safety zone” around Oxnard’s La Colonia.
In his request, Quinn also wrote, “the mere appearance of two Colonia Chiques members together in public within the enforcement zone does not constitute a public nuisance.”
He said there is no evidence why the “mere appearance of a Colonia Chiques member in public after 10 p.m. constitutes a public nuisance.”
Quinn also asked Bysshe to explain the standards used by the court to determine that the Colonia Chiques caused a nuisance over the designated safety zone.
Quinn’s three other points dealt with the court’s definition of a gang.
Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold said Monday that she was pleased with Bysshe’s decision. She applauded Bysshe’s inclusion of an “opt-out” process, which would allow “recovering” Colonia Chiques gang members to join a program for 24 months.
The 12-step-type program would provide education and job assistance, support groups and free removal of tattoos.
“The judge spent a tremendous amount of time trying to find a way to suppress crime, while finding a way out for gang members to do something beneficial with their lives,” Wold said. “That was a unique decision on the judge’s part. He should be commended for trying to protect the rights of citizens … while helping gang members with a way to move forward.”
According to Bysshe’s tentative decision, the court will hold a hearing in six months to review proposals for the opt-out program.
Some community members, however, have criticized the injunction, saying that it has infringed upon citizens’ constitutional rights.
Community activist Francisco Romero said law enforcement officials and politicians are using gang injunctions as a “repressive weapon,” rather than a helpful “tool” to curb street crime.
“These injunctions are spreading like wildfire in California,” Romero said. “They are, in essence, political weapons used to divert attention from irresponsible policies in our city and county.”
Romero said the District Attorney’s Office and the Oxnard Department are working backward in their immediate push for an injunction rather than working with the community.
If made permanent, a party has 60 days to appeal the decision with the California Court of Appeal Second Appellate District, Senior Deputy District Attorney Michael Schwartz said. The appeal would go before three justices who then have 90 days to issue a decision.
The appeal process in a civil case could take about a year, Schwartz said