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Judge makes Ogden's gang injunction permanent

Published August 20, 2012 1:12 pm

Courts • Prosecutor says crime plummeted with temporary ruling.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A judge has made an injunction against the Ogden Trece gang permanent.

In a ruling handed down Monday, 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones reaffirmed the restrictions, which had been in place on a temporary basis since 2010, against the street gang's 300-plus members.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said he was pleased with the judge's order and credited the injunction with bringing a "significant reduction" in gang crime in Ogden — across all of the city's gangs.

"Other gangs have become less visible," Smith said. "We can only speculate why, but one reason is they don't want to be targeted next. They see what we've done to Ogden Trece."

After winning a significant legal battle Monday, Smith said the county could fight for injunctions against other street gangs.

"It's certainly something we've discussed," Smith said. "There are two or three gangs we've been keeping our eyes on."

Among the restrictions in the Ogden Trece injunction:

• Gang members cannot associate with each other in public view within most of the city. An exception is listed for school and church, though Trece members are not allowed to travel to those places together.

• Gang members cannot possess weapons — even imitation firearms — in public. Nor can they drink alcohol in public view, except on "properly licensed premises."

• Gang members must obey a curfew that keeps them out of public places between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they're traveling directly to or from a legitimate activity.

Violating the injunction can lead to fines and jail time. And since it's a civil order, it requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal proceedings.

Ogden defense attorney Michael Studebaker, one of three lawyers who defended Trece members at trial earlier this year, called the restrictions "outlandish" and "unconstitutional." If two Trece members were together at a polling location, for example, they could be subject to arrest, he said. They also are not allowed to be together in court.

"I don't know how much more unconstitutional you can get," Studebaker said. "Our position has always been, if they're breaking the law, then arrest and prosecute them. But don't throw the Constitution out just to make your job easier."

Gang members can formally request "hardship exemptions" to the injunction. Or served parties can "opt out" by declaring that he or she is a reformed Trece member who has not been arrested for gang activity in the past three years and has no new gang tattoos.

Ogden police say there has been an 11.8 percent drop in gang crime and a 38 percent drop in graffiti in the city since the injunction was put in place two years ago.

"Individuals in the community hopefully should feel a little bit safer," said Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley. Other departments from around the state have reached out to Ogden about the injunction, he said.

The injunction has also cut down on retaliatory crimes around the county, Smith said.

"When Ogden Trece isn't out doing graffiti, the next gang doesn't have to respond," he said. "When they're not out committing drive-by shootings, you don't have retaliation at one of the Trece houses."

Defense attorneys previously have argued narrow legal issues regarding the injunction before the Utah Supreme Court. But with a final order, Studebaker said he believes his clients have a better chance at an appeal.

"This really is the most overly broad injunction anywhere in the country," said John Mejía, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Gang injunctions have been upheld in California, but only in much smaller areas, he said.

The ACLU also said it's problematic that police get to decide what qualifies someone as a gang member.

"The big problem is that you have the police with complete discretion on choosing who they think is a gang member," Mejía said. "Once they make that determination, they can serve this over-broad injunction. Before they serve the injunction there's no judicial oversight."

Trece attorneys have 30 days to file an appeal. In the meantime, Studebaker said he will tell his clients the only thing he can: "Obey the law."


Twitter: @aaronfalk —

How Ogden police define gang members

The city defines gang members by considering eight criteria. If a person meets two of the criteria, he or she can be documented as a gang member. If the person meets one of the criteria, he or she can be documented as a gang associate. The criteria are:

1. The suspect admits his gang membership; OR

2. Whether in custody or not, a person may also be documented as a gang member if two of the following criteria are met:

a. The suspect has been arrested in the commission of a crime where the criminal associates are documented gang members;

b. The suspect has been identified as a gang member through the use of a reliable confidential informant, parent or guardian of the suspect, or other documented gang members;

c. The suspect has known and identifiable gang tattoos;

d. The suspect wears clothing that can be identified as gang specific, either in the clothing itself or the manner in which the clothing is being worn;

e. The suspect engages in hand signs and/or uses speech and specific language that is typical of certain gangs and gang sets;

f. The suspect was found in the company of known gang members three or more times;

g. The suspect has a known moniker that other persons or gang members identify him with;

h. The suspect has been identified through other physical evidence or source proving their associations with known gang members (i.e., photographs, writings, recordings, documents, graffiti, social and electronic media, etc.).

Source: Ogden Police Department




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