"Broderick Boys" Injunction Continues to Tear Apart Neighborhood

Jun 30, 2006
ACLU of Northern California

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

In late December 2004, the District Attorney of Yolo County filed papers seeking a permanent injunction against the Broderick Boys “gang.” thereby placing hundreds of residents of a predominantly Latino neighborhood in West Sacramento on permanent probation without trial or due process.

Among other restrictions, the injunction forbids those identified as gang members from associating with one another in public within a three-mile “safety zone” that covers 80 percent of the city, including City Hall. It also imposes on its targets a lifetime 10 p.m. curfew.

The injunction was obtained without any notice to the people affected. It deprived hundreds of individuals and families of their rights to due process and their rights to be heard.

In court papers filed in December 2004, West Sacramento police claimed that they had identified 350 members of the Broderick Boys. Yet, the District Attorney chose to serve only one person, who was residing out of the county. No further notice was provided to any of the alleged gang members until the case was concluded a month later. Thus, the judge never heard any opposition to the District Attorney’s claims and legal arguments.

“The stealth procedures adopted by the district attorney resulted in the constitutional rights of hundreds of people, and their families, being taken away without any opportunity for their day in court,” said ACLU-NC Legal Director Alan Schlosser. “As a result, the court only heard one side of the story. Due process requires more.”

In response, the ACLU filed a motion asking the court to set aside the sweeping injunction on behalf of Angelo Velazquez, Jason Swearengin, Benjamin Juarez, and Keith Edwards. The men only learned of the injunction a week after it was issued, when teams of law enforcement agents showed up at their doors and served the permanent injunction on them and dozens of other alleged gang members.

After a hearing in November 2005, the judge denied the motion. The judge claimed that the ACLU clients, who deny membership in the Broderick Boys, do not have standing to set aside the injunction. The ACLU-NC appealed; the final brief was filed in June 2006.

In addition to the appeal, working in conjunction with cooperating attorneys at Munger, Tolles, and Olson, the ACLU-NC recently filed a complaint seeking a judicial declaration that one of the ACLU clients in the case, Angelo Velazquez, is not an active member of the Broderick Boys, and that the injunction should be lifted in his case.

Residents of the area say their community has been torn apart by the injunction. “Friends and family members can no longer go to family barbecues or attend each other’s children’s birthday parties,” said community activist Martha Garcia. “They can’t go to the movies together, they can’t attend night school because classes get out after the curfew. This injunction harms the quality of life of our community.”

Rose Trujillo, 78, said, “I’ve lived here for more than half a century and I’ve raised my children and grandchildren here. My son David is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who spent about 12 years as a West Sacramento police officer. Until last year, I attended mass at Holy Cross church every Thursday night without any problem and only stopped doing so because of health problems. And during all these years, I’ve never felt afraid in my community. That is why I know this injunction is wrong.”