San Francisco, CA – Public Defender Jeff Adachi announces victory for his client Antonio Buitrago who was ordered excluded from the Mission gang injunction by Superior Court Judge Patrick Mahoney. Judge Mahoney ruled that “the record does not establish by clear and convincing evidence that (Antonio Buitrago) is an active gang member.” The decision granting a preliminary injunction in the Mission was issued last Friday.
Antonio Buitrago was labeled a gang member by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in the Mission District gang injunction lawsuit filed last July in San Francisco Superior Court. To support his claim, City Attorney Herrera presented affidavits of police officers who claimed that Buitrago, a 23-year old native San Franciscan, had been seen in the presence of an alleged gang member at a funeral, once recorded a rap song in which he referenced gang culture, and was shot. In response, Buitrago, who has never been convicted or arrested for a crime, submitted a declaration that his “associations” with alleged gang members involved only non-criminal interactions with his cousin and a childhood friend.
In a letter issued to the City Attorney before the hearing on the preliminary injunction, Public Defender Adachi requested that Buitrago be removed from the list in advance of the court date. Public Defender Adachi also submitted letters of support from Mission District residents and community leader who know Buitrago to be a non-gang member. The City Attorney refused this request.
“A few months ago the City Attorney assured the public that he was ‘extremely careful’ to name the most active known adult gang on his injunction list. Today’s decision proves that non-gang members are still at risk of being permanently branded as criminals,” says Public Defender Adachi. “Antonio should have never had to fight this battle in the first place. There was no evidence to support the City Attorney’s claim that he was a gang member. I am deeply concerned that there are others who couldn’t afford an attorney to fight this injunction, and will now be permanently restricted from conducting legal, innocent behavior in their own neighborhood.”
The scope of the preliminary injunction will cover the entire 60-block area proposed by the City Attorney and prohibits any clothing that contains in whole or in part the color red, with the exception of work uniforms. The curfew that was initially proposed by the City Attorney was denied. Rather, nighttime loitering between the hours of 10:00PM and 5:30PM will be prohibited.
“The City Attorney said that he filed this injunction because he wanted to protect the people who were caught in the crossfire of gang violence,” says Buitrago. “Well, I was caught in that crossfire. I was shot in the back. And yet he used that against me to say that I was a gang member, when I never was. Is this how the City wants to protect people like me?”
The mission of the Public Defender’s office is to provide vigorous, effective, competent and ethical legal representation to persons who are accused of crime and cannot afford to hire an attorney. Established in 1921, the San Francisco Public Defender has a long, proud history of providing top-notch representation to its clients, and championing programs that help people turn their lives around.