Solano County judge makes gang injunction permanent

Brian Hamlin (The Reporter)
07/28/2010

Following a four-day trial, a judge on Tuesday ruled that a temporary injunction against the Norteños street gang in Fairfield should become permanent.

The ruling by Solano County Superior Court Judge William C. Harrison means members of the street gang will be prohibited from gathering or engaging in gang activities within a 4.2-square-mile “safety zone” in central Fairfield. Weapons, alcohol, vandalism, trespassing and gang graffiti are all prohibited under the gang injunction, which was first proposed a year ago.

In addition, the injunction sets a Norteño gang curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily inside the safety zone, which is roughly bounded by Interstate 80, Air Base Parkway, Sunset Avenue and Highway 12.

In handing down his ruling late Tuesday afternoon, the judge also found that two men who had appeared during the trial to protest their inclusion in the injunction should be considered active Norteño members and therefore subject to the injunction’s rules.

Represented by Point Richmond attorney Paul Feuerwerker, Fairfield residents Lucio Gonzalez and Mario Huezo denied current membership in the gang. Gonzalez admitted that he had been a member of the gang several years ago, but had dropped out after serving time in the California Youth Authority. Huezo said he’d been an “associate” of the gang when he was younger, but never an active participant. He told the court that he grew up and went to school with people affiliated with the Norteño gang but did not become a full-fledged member.

After reviewing their statements and several police reports presented about their purported activities, Harrison ruled that sufficient evidence had been presented to link both men to gang membership.

He told both men that the injunction does provide for an “opt out” option whereby they may petition the court for relief if they’re willing to declare they are not active gang members, agree to renounce gang life and have not been convicted of any gang-related crimes within the past three years. Those wishing to opt out also must maintain full-time employment or educational pursuits.

“What we are trying to do here is solve a problem,” Harrison said in announcing his decision.

Although the Norteño injunction has a broad range of provisions, Fairfield Police gang unit supervisor Sgt. Jeff Osgood said one of the most important rules was the prohibiting of gang members from gathering within the safety zone.

Breaking up gang members’ gatherings, Osgood testified last week, causes a “disconnect” that disrupts their activities.

“The whole point is that when they’re together, more things happen than when they’re not,” Osgood said.

Although Fairfield is home to another violent street gang, the Sureños, authorities seem to be taking a “wait and see” approach with the current injunction before considering a similar action against the Sureños.

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