Federal Judge Manuel L. Real has granted bail to Alex Sanchez, the former gang member turned anti-gang activist who has been accused in a federal racketeering (RICO) indictment of being a “secret shot-caller” for Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). [To follow the trail of a series of earlier posts on this fascinating case, start here. You will eventually land in the Land of Oz. ]
Here is how Celeste Fremon’s WitnessLA broke the news today:
Around 11:30, at the end of the closed hearing that began at 10 a.m. Alex Sanchez attorney Kerry Bensinger came out of the federal courtroom to talk to Sanchez family and a very, very small handful of supporters, whom he drew into a side room and broke the news. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real had granted Alex Sanchez bail.
One thing that can be said for the staggeringly quirky Real, he continues to surprise. This time the surprise was a good one for Sanchez and family.
The bail amount is set at $2 million. It is to be divided into $1 million in properties, $1 million in surities.
Since Sanchez supporters and family have already gathered $1.4 million in property, and $1 million in surities, “it’s only a matter of the paperwork,” said Monica Novoa, a Homies Unidos board member who is very close to the family and thus was in the room.
The extraordinary bail hearing was closed to the public. It followed the filing of a mysterious sealed document by Sanchez’s lawyer, Kerry L. Bensinger. Contents of that filing are not available on the public record.
Judge Real apparently felt the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals breathing down his back and called in a panel of independent gang experts to help him pin down the facts relevant to Sanchez’s bail request. These have almost nothing to do with the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but whether he presents (1) a risk of flight, or (2) a threat to others.
According to papers filed in the federal district court, prosecutors made available three expert witnesses. They were:
- LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg, Commanding Officer of the Gangs and Narcotics Division.
- Former federal prosecutor Bruce K. Riordan, now Director of Anti-Gang Operations for the L.A. City Attorney’s Office. Riordan is also Chief of the Gang Division and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
- FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert W. Clark, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office.
“Government’s Notice Re; Available Witnesses at Hearing Re: Detention of Alex Sanchez,” United States v. Alfaro, Central District of California, Docket No. CR-09-466-R, filed January 12, 2010.
NOTE: This document — which was publicly available yesterday at the time this blog post was first written — has now been sealed. Oh, well. Good thing I printed it off!
It is possible that Bensinger’s mysterious sealed document was the defendant’s list of experts, some or all of whom are rumored to be politicians and public officials who may not have wanted to be identified as speaking on Sanchez’s behalf. Is there such a thing as a spinal implant? Or integrity transfusion? Perhaps this is something that the indefatigable activist Tom Hayden — who is given to dark conspiratorial theories when a matter involves the government — can investigate and write about in the public interest.
In any event, Judge Real was demonstrably persuaded that Sanchez was entitled to be released.
At least some observers have speculated that prosecutors made a decision to ease back on the throttle regarding the Sanchez bail question. The theory of this line of reasoning is that prosecutors realized that they had a big problem with the factual scenario they had relied on to implicate Sanchez in an intra-gang hit — to wit, the government may have incorrectly identified a key participant in a wiretapped phone call.
The call on the table, the reasoning continues, was either to continue pushing hard to keep Sanchez locked up and risk seeing the case taken away from Judge Real by the Ninth Circuit, or to reform the skirmish line and perhaps bring in some fresh troops. A few new strategic calls may also be made.
Most interesting in the short run will be to see what, if anything, the Los Angeles Times prints tomorrow. Any way you slice the Sanchez case, it is a world class story that any of the old style newspaper men would have given an arm for: if Sanchez is truly innocent, he has been the victim of terrible mistreatment. If he is guilty, he pulled off a scam that makes Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff look like an amateur.
But the Times, one of the few interesting newspapers left in America, has studiously ignored the case to date.
UPDATE ON LOS ANGELES TIMES‘ COVERAGE
No surprise here. No story. Apparently, LA Times editors couldn’t find their butts in the dark with both hands and a flashlight.
But the on-line edition does have this suh-weet blast from the past: