Public Defender Goes to Court to Oppose City Attorney’s Gang Injunctions

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San Francisco, CA – Public Defender Jeff Adachi will represent 22-year old Antonio Buitrago, a named defendant in a gang injunction lawsuit filed by the City Attorney in San Francisco Superior Court, this Tuesday, September 18, 2007, at 9:30 AM, at the Civic Center Courthouse, 400 McAllister Street in San Francisco. Deputy Public Defender Chris Gauger will represent 19-year old Makia Johnson, named in a separate lawsuit filed against the alleged “Knock Out Posse” and “Chopper City” gangs in the Western Addition. San Francisco attorneys Rob Amparan, Nina Wilder and Karl Krooth will represent five additional named defendants in the Mission lawsuit.

Tuesday’s hearings will determine whether preliminary injunctions are to be issued in the Mission and Western Addition. The proposed Mission District injunction would cover a 60-block area in a neighborhood heavily populated by Latinos and would apply to people who law enforcement identify as members of the “Norteño gang” of Northern Mexican origin. Judge Patrick Mahoney will hear arguments on the Mission injunction in Courtroom 302, while Judge Peter Busch will hear arguments on the Western Addition injunctions in Courtroom 301.

Public Defenders Adachi and Gauger will argue that the City Attorney has erroneously named their clients as “gang members.” According to Public Defender Adachi, “Antonio Buitrago is not a gang member and never has been.” Furthermore, Adachi says that Buitrago has never been convicted or arrested for a crime. “The City Attorney claims that he was seen in the company of a suspected gang member on three occasions and that he sang two rap songs about gangs,” noted Adachi. “If this is the best that the City Attorney can do, I don’t think a gang injunction will have much effect.” The Public Defender has also filed several declarations from community residents and leaders who believe that the injunctions will have a negative effect in their neighborhoods and will make it more difficult for youth to leave gangs.

The Public Defender’s Office has also filed a declaration from an expert, Judy Greene, whose extensive study of gang injunctions found that the injunctions tend to displace, but not eliminate, gang crime. Public Defender Adachi and Deputy Public Defender Gauger are also expected to raise a number of constitutional arguments, including claims that the injunction violates first amendment freedom of association and that its terms are overbroad and vague.

“Mr. Buitrago’s is a classic case of ‘guilt by association,’” says Adachi “If the City is serious about reducing gang violence, then it must address the root causes of violence through jobs, education and other social services that are so lacking in these communities.”

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Public Defender Mission Gang Injunction Brief.
Public Defender Western Addition Gang Injunction Brief.