Informer strips away gang secrecy

Tracey Kaplan (Mercury News) | January 31, 2011

John Mendoza was once a Norteño king, a shot caller in the notorious street gang who commanded such grim respect from San Francisco to San Jose that he could order someone ki*led with a single phone call.

But today, Mendoza is known as a “rat” — the lowest form of scum in the gang world, who will never be safe on the streets again.

To Santa Clara County prosecutors, Mendoza is an informer, a tour guide to the violent, inner world of teardrop tattoos, homeboys and “missions” overseen from afar by “generals” in Pelican Bay, the state’s super-maximum-security prison.

In a major gang trial in San Jose, Mendoza’s testimony about the strange path — involving his dying wife — he took to becoming a snitch reveals much about the internecine world of Norteño and Sureño street and prison gangs. The stocky 40-year-old with black tattoos framing his bald skull sits in striking contrast to the usual professor or police officer experts who testify about gang culture.

“I didn’t have no intention of doing it (informing),” Mendoza told a spellbound jury. “What pushed me is I knew the NF (Nuestra Familia) had closed the door on me.”

In an attempt to play down Mendoza’s testimony, defense attorneys pointed out that he never met the four men on trial on charges of murder, conspiracy or both, and knows little about their specific East Side street gang — El Hoyo Palmas.

But Palmas are Norteños who are loosely overseen by Mendoza’s prison gang, Nuestra Familia, with turf from Oregon to Bakersfield.

Prosecutors say they hope Mendoza will shed light on the gang lifestyle, including the pressure on young members — like the ones on trial — to prove themselves by committing shocking acts of violence.

Article continued at:

Photo Courtesy: Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office

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1 Comment for “Informer strips away gang secrecy”

  1. Mexicans are always talking about black people snitching!!! apparently they are wrong!!!

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