Thursday, December 30, 2004

In today's LA DAILY NEWS, Beth Barrett reports that California Senator Dianne Feinstein is ready to reintroduce legislation that will target street gangs and bring Federal charges on crimes that have previously been considered local beefs.

She sounds steamed up and ready for a brawl. "I've watched, virtually all my political career, gangs go from next to nothing in this country to where they are the major criminal enterprises, more vicious than Mafia crime ever was."

The final wording on the bill hasn't been hammered out yet. Some legislators are afraid the bill might be draconian. An aide to a Senate Democrat 9curiously left unnamed) said, "The big question was whether the federal government should be federalizing street crimes." That objection has been moot for decades. The RICO statutes already federalizes what used to be considered pure street crimes like conspiracy to murder, loan sharking, extortion, drug traficking etc. That horse is already out of the barn.

Feinstein's bill would elevate other crimes to the level of a federal offense. The most interesting item in her bill would make it a federal crime to recruit a minor into a street gang. On the most basic level, if you're an 18-year-old soldado and jump in your 16-year-old cousin, you've just committed a federal offense. Which means you don't go to county or the pinta. You go to Joliet or wherever there's room in the federal prison system. That makes it tough on family visits, not to mention all the other restrictions you don't face in state prison.

Despite objections from juvenile offender activists, the LE sources quoted in the DN piece are all in favor of the new laws. No surprise there.

To all you pee wees, midgets and tinys out there, the eye of Sauron is upon you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It seems that the response to international terrorism is having some fallout on the streets. The New York City DA charged 19 members of the ST. JAMES BOYS GANG, a Mexican neighborhood in NYC, with terrorism for conducting what's normally been considered street gang business.

During a run-of-the-mill street beef, EDGAR MORALES, a homie that claimed SJB, wounded his target but also accidentally hit and killed a 10-year old innocent bystander, MELANIE MENDEZ. Instead of going with the usual charges, the DA decided to prosecute under the new terrorism laws and as a result MORALES is the first street gangster in NEW YORK STATE to be charged as a terrorist. He probably also qualifies as the first gangster in the country to be charged with terrorism. We've never heard of anyone else being similarly charged so this might turn into a milestone case.

MORALES has yet to go to trial, but if he were convicted under non-terror laws, he'd get a max of 25 to life. Under the tighter terror laws he's loooking at life without parole.

Civil libertarians are predictably up in arms about this because the terror laws were never intended to target street criminals. Just the big nasty guys that fly planes into buildings, shoot schoolkids and chop off women's heads. But once a prosecutor has a tool in the toolbox, you can bet the tool will be used. It was inevitable.

The same thing happened with the RICO statutes created in 1970. RICO was originally designed to take down the COSA NOSTRA. But once LE found that other criminal enterprises fit the description, RICO has been used against groups that didn't quite measure up to the power and organization of the LCN.

What this means to neighborhoods is that the next time a group of homies is caught in some anti-social act, even if it's conducting business that doesn't involve civilians, they might be looking at forever. In the eyes of the government, you're no longer a street soldado putting in the work. You're a terrorist.