Suspected Gang Members Get Restraining Order Subpoenas in Texas
Pubdate: Fri, 3 Jul 1998
Source: Austin American-Statesman
Author: Dave Harmon, American-Statesman Staff
SUSPECTED GANG MEMBERS GET RESTRAINING ORDER SUBPOENAS
Judge Still Must Rule On Whether Suspects Are Public Nuisances
Officer Bruce Thompson’s knuckles rapped three times on Shang Yahoshua’s apartment door Thursday, and moments later, the 21-year-old stepped outside into a semicircle of police and news cameras.
“Shang,” Thompson said, “I’m going to serve you with some papers — they’re just civil papers, don’t worry about it.”
When Thompson placed a subpoena in his hand, the puzzled Yahoshua became the first of eight Austin residents to learn he was a target of a law enforcement tool never before tried in Texas.
Hours before, prosecutors filed the paperwork they hope will persuade a Travis County judge to approve the so-called gang injunctions, which are restraining orders designed to curb the activities of gang members and criminals.
The subpoenas served on five of the eight targets Thursday afternoon ordered them to appear in court July 10, when District Judge Wil Flowers will decide whether the eight are a public nuisance and should have their actions restricted in a one-half-square-mile area in the Northeast Austin neighborhood where police say they sell drugs.
The Travis County district attorney’s office on Thursday filed its petition for an injunction, claiming that the eight are gang members who sell drugs, recruit customers, run from the police and intimidate people in the neighborhood.
In a press conference at the corner of Cameron Road and Broadmoor Drive, District Attorney Ronnie Earle said the proposed injunction is a response to the neighborhood’s complaints that the eight individuals were intimidating residents and appeared to be selling drugs.
Flanked by police and neighbors, Earle said the injunction, if approved by the judge, will not be a permanent solution but will help give the neighborhood residents “breathing space” to take control of their streets again. If the injunction simply moves the problem to another area, he said, “then we will file another injunction.”
The individuals named in the petition were Yahoshua; Johnny Jefferson, 21; Derick LeBlanc, 22; Ollie Nickols, 18; Percy Prejean, 19; Derrick Cathey, 16; Connie Milner, 25; and Lamar Hill, 16, whose address was listed as 7704 Northcrest Blvd.
The last seven could not be reached for comment. Police served subpoenas on five of the eight Thursday, including two who were in jail.
The petition seeks to prevent them from congregating in groups of two or more in an area bordered on the west by Cameron Road, on the north by Cloverleaf Drive, on the east by Belfast Drive, and on the south by East 51st Street.
The proposed injunction came with a list of 17 prohibited activities in the target area, including:
* Standing, sitting, walking, driving, gathering or appearing in public with another one of the eight or with any other known member of the gang in which they allegedly belong.
* Possessing, using or delivering narcotics or drug paraphernalia, and possessing pagers or beepers in public.
* Communicating with anyone in a vehicle, obstructing traffic, using gang hand signs, wearing gang colors or acting as a lookout.
* Using abusive language, threatening, harassing or intimidating people either in retaliation or to prevent them from complaining to police.
The injunction would also make two convenience stores on Cameron Road near Broadmoor Drive off-limits to any of the eight. The punishment for violations would be up to 10 days in jail for contempt of court.
Earle’s office also filed affidavits from police officers who have spent weeks poring through computers to detail every arrest and bit of intelligence officers have gathered about the eight targets.
An affidavit from officer Jon Walker, who patrols the area, said LeBlanc “is a self-proclaimed crack dealer. He has stated, ‘I’m the biggest crack dealer in Broadmoor.’ ” The affidavit said LeBlanc has threatened business owners and residents and has been arrested twice in the past six months for possession of cocaine.
Prejean, according to the affidavit, is a documented gang member who was recently arrested for possession of cocaine and also has threatened people in the neighborhood. The affidavit said Prejean and Nickols, who has been arrested twice for possession of marijuana, each were captured on police surveillance videotape making what appeared to be drug sales.
Jefferson, according to the affidavit, has threatened residents, been arrested for possession of cocaine and “has been identified by informants in the area as the person currently selling crack cocaine in the target area.”
Milner is a “self-admitted prostitute and crack addict,” the affidavit says, who allegedly holds drugs for the other defendants and who has been arrested for prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The affidavit lists Hill and Yahoshua as “relatively recent associates” of the others who police saw involved in “suspicious activity.” The most serious offenses listed for them are non-drug misdemeanors such as curfew violation and criminal trespass.
Yahoshua, who lives within the target area — two others also had their last known addresses within the area — said he’s not a gang member and doesn’t sell drugs.
“This right here made me get away from all that,” he said, pointing to what looked like a scar from a bullet on his shoulder. “I don’t hang out. All that’s nonsense.”
When Thompson explained that the subpoena orders him to appear in court, Yahoshua said he’d be there.
“I think I’m being violated; I’ll take care of that with the court,” he said, clearly unhappy with the news cameras capturing the moment. “I’m not going to run from you, I’m going to laugh at court like I’m laughing now.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is watching the case and says the injunctions would violate the targets’ constitutional rights. The ACLU challenged gang injunctions when they were first used in California. The California Supreme Court upheld the injunctions last year.