NEW YORK USES TERROR LAW TO HIT STREET GANG

NEW YORK USES TERROR LAW TO HIT STREET GANG

New York City prosecutors have begun to use the state’s anti-terror law against members of violent street gangs that engage in drive-by-shootings and other types of extreme intimidation in the furtherance of crime.

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson employed the anti-terror law in the trial of Edgar “Puebla” Morales, 22, and four other members of the “St. James Park” street gang that has just begun.

The 70-count grand jury indictment cites the gang members for alleged acts of terrorism to further acts of conspiracy, murder, gang assault and other offenses.

The State Anti-Terrorism Statute raises the level of seriousness of specified crimes committed with “the intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”

“This case appears to be the first in which the Anti-terrorism Statute has been used against members of an organized gang who sought to dominate a neighborhood through their criminal acts,” Johnson said.

Although the law was intended to be used against acts of political terror, Johnson said, “The terror perpetrated by gangs, which all too often occurs on the streets of New York, also fits squarely within the scope of this statute.”

The prosecutor said the “gang members preyed upon hard-working, law-abiding citizens, including fellow immigrants from Mexico. The purpose of this wanton violence by these defendants was to enhance their status. It is alleged that the defendants attempted to flex the gang’s collective muscle by targeting private parties, restaurants and other business establishments.”

The most serious charge in the indictment involved the murder of a 10-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet outside a church hall during a shoot-out between the St. James Park gang and a rival gang. Another bystander was wounded.

Murder in the 2nd degree as a crime of terrorism is punishable by a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under the new state law.

Copyright Washington Crime News Service Feb 14, 2005

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