Public defender to enter injunction fight Judge says four people can get their arguments heard in court
Ventura County Star Public defender to enter injunction fight
Judge says four people can get their arguments heard in court
By Jessica Keating,
July 9, 2004
The Ventura County Public Defender’s Office will be allowed to represent four people named in documents used to support a court-ordered injunction against the Colonia Chiques gang in Oxnard.
At a hearing Thursday, Superior Court Judge Frederick Bysshe said defense attorneys should have an opportunity to “at least present their side of the story.” It’s unclear, however, whether the public defender will be allowed to contest the entire injunction or be limited to issues involving only the four clients. Bysshe is expected to rule on that matter at a hearing this morning.
Bysshe said Thursday that he supports an “adversarial” legal process that gives both proponents and opponents their day in court.
Opponents have said the injunction is too broad and could result in the arrest of innocent people. Supporters argue the injunction is necessary to curb gang violence and intimidation of the community.
So far, opponents have been unable to argue in court over the legality of the injunction, which Bysshe temporarily approved in early June.
The injunction imposes restrictions on gang members in a 6.6-square-mile patchwork of Oxnard neighborhoods, parks and businesses called a “safety zone.” Only those served with a court order can be later arrested for violating terms of the injunction, which include prohibitions on possessing drugs, making gang signs, wearing Dallas Cowboys attire, staying out past 10 p.m. and associating with other gang members.
At least three men have been arrested so far on suspicion of violating the injunction. Two have yet to be arraigned, while the third awaits a preliminary hearing on charges that he disobeyed the injunction, threatened an officer and resisted arrest.
Outside court Thursday, Public Defender Ken Clayman said he was pleased with the direction in which Bysshe seemed to be headed.
“I think he stated very clearly that he is interested in both sides of the question,” Clayman said. “He appears to be interested in having as much input as he can get.”
The public defender wants to intervene on behalf of four people — one named in declarations used to support the temporary injunction and three served with the injunction court order. None of the four has been charged with actually violating the injunction.
Clayman has not taken a stand for or against the injunction but has said he wants to study legal issues surrounding the restrictions.
Prosecutor Karen Wold, who is leading the injunction effort for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, urged Bysshe on Thursday to limit the public defender’s intervention to questions about whether the four clients should be required to adhere to the court order.
Wold also asked the court to grant her request for a permanent injunction, but Bysshe said he was not prepared to do so.
“I hate to use a cliche like ‘rush to judgment,’ ” Bysshe said, “but it seems to be appropriate in the sense that I did not want to make a decision which was a fait accompli.”
Bysshe said he did not want to give up the option to make changes to the injunction, which he has set for review in early August. He wants the district attorney to provide proof that the injunction is reducing crime and is being implemented as intended.
At Thursday’s hearing, Bysshe also asked Wold to prepare an “opt-out” clause for gang members who want to leave the Chiques and avoid the injunction restrictions. But he warned against allowing an escape hatch for gang members who profess an illusory “foxhole religion.”
Bysshe also asked Wold to investigate whether he could later change the injunction if he makes it permanent.
Wold said outside court Thursday that she understood Bysshe’s concerns, and that she was not surprised by his comments. The important thing for the community, she said, is that the preliminary injunction stay intact.
“The main concern of the district attorney and the Oxnard Police Department is to protect the citizens of the community. The preliminary injunction is currently in place, so we currently have a measure to do that,” she said. “As long as that protection is in place, the community is safe.”
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