Community and peace advocate and Executive Director of Homies Unidos in Los Angeles, Alex Sánchez was arraigned last week in federal court, accused of conspiracy under the RICO statutes for crimes he allegedly committed over the past 15 years. He was denied bail on June 30th despite an outpouring of support from the community.
These types of federal ‘conspiracy’ charges always endanger civil rights because they tend to be overbroad, vague and often times, outright false when the accusers have a long history of corruption, such as the LAPD.
In fact, in the late 1990s, Alex led a community grassroots campaign to shed light on police corruption and successfully exposed the CRASH Ramparts scandal where LAPD were found to have falsely framed Latinos on bogus charges.
This became one of the largest police corruption scandals in U.S. history with over 70 officers named as corrupt. Homies Unidos made an issue out of holding police liable to California state and federal law.
As a result, Alex was arrested and handed over to then INS (today known as ICE). After being deported, Alex successfully secured asylum in the U.S. Now that authorities in Los Angeles cannot attack Alex based on his immigration status, we are faced with his indictment.
Read Roberto Lovato’s analysis on his Of América blog (excerpt below) and a subsequent post, “Why Was Alex Sanchez Arrested? Uprising Radio Interview.”
I for one do not believe the charges. Rather, I think that these recent accusations are but the most recent in the long, rotten chain of attempts by law enforcement officials to frame Alex, who was regularly beaten, framed, falsely arrested, deported, and harassed by the Los Angeles Police Department since founding Homies Unidos in 1998. First and foremost, I spent the evening calling those who know and have worked most closely with him, and they ALL share that sense that, as one of his best friends told me, “He really is a good person.” I’ve known him for years and will be sending a strongly worded support letter like the many I’ve sent over the course of the many years and many frame-ups law enforcement has ravenously pursued. Those close to Homies and Alex know and are again feeling that cloud of anger and concern that comes with being harassed by authorities abusing the power delegated to them.
Also, Alex is alleged to have conspired to kill Walter Lacinos, who sources in the Salvadoran and gang communities tell me had, in the words of one gang expert interviewed, “many, many enemies in the U.S.-and El Salvador.” While most of charges levelled against most of the the 24 other plaintiffs point to physical acts and evidence, the one and most serious indictment (see full indictment here)naming Alex alleges that he participated in “a series of phone conversations” in which the possibility of killing Lacinos is discussed. No proof is offered to corroborate the charges relating to managing narcotics operations for MS.
Lastly, the sensationalistic judgements of many media and some law enforcement officials raises serious concerns, as well. Close scrutiny of the media coverage reveals an definite disposition to judge and convict Alex even before his trial begins. For example, almost all of the coverage follows uncritically the logic laid out in the indictment. No attempt is made to notice that, for example, Alex is not named in most of the 66-page indicment. Other plaintiff’s names appear throughout. Those reading reporting in the LA Times and other outlets might come away believing that Alex might be involved in the murder of seven people or in conspiring to kill another 8. Consider this note from today’s LA Times:
The arrests cap a three-year investigation into the gang and its cliques, which operated in the Lafayette Park area, west of downtown. Among the most serious allegations contained in a 16-count federal indictment unsealed today was the claim gang members conspired to murder veteran LAPD gang officer Frank Flores.
Those named in the indictment include Alex Sanchez, a nationally recognized anti-gang leader and executive director of Homies Unidos.
Notice how there’s zero attempt to clarify or give greater context to Alex’s story, even though he headlines most of these stories. Even worse is the way that law enforcement authorities like L.A. Police Chief Bill Bratton, who the Times tells us has a big “I told you so” for the city, use Alex’s case to build the case for punitive-and failed-anti-gang policies, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said the Sanchez case reinforces the thinking behind the city’s efforts to consolidate and more strongly regulate anti-gang funding.