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MS-13 and a parade

handcuffed manGang violence isn’t new in Montgomery County. It isn’t new anywhere in the country.
It is dangerous and serious, but the federal government has never been particularly good about dealing with the problem and the Trump administration is particularly inept in its ability to deal with one particular gang - MS-13.
The gang has been active for at least a decade and a half in Montgomery County and has been responsible for some horrible crimes, particularly in the immigrant community.
John Cronan, an assistant attorney general said Tuesday the Trump administration will not protect immigrants who come forward to testify against MS-13 members - particularly otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who fear deportation.

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New Approaches

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County leaders gather to deal with rising local gang violence

MoCo LogoROCKVILLE – State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy said the County’s gang problem is on the rise.

“When you see the recent rise in crime at the level and the extent to which you see it, new strategies are called for, new approaches are called for when you see this,” McCarthy said.

On Tuesday, four police chiefs, the County’s Sheriff and the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools signed a memorandum of understanding to help facilitate cooperation in combating the County’s rising gang problem.

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MS-13 members indicted under racketeering charges

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handcuffed manA federal grand jury indicted eight Maryland-based MS-13 gang members under federal racketeering charges.

The grand jury indicted Michael Eduardo Contreras, 22, of Silver Spring; Carlos Roberto Tejada Cruz, 20, of Beltsville; Kevin Alexis Hernandez-Guevara, 20, of Landover Hills; Rolando Aristides Juarez-Vasquez, 22, of Hyattsville; Jeffry Rodriguez 21, of Beltsville; Junior Noe Alvarado-Requeno, 20, of Landover; Luis Fernando Orellana-Estrada, 18, of Hyattsville and Donald Roberto Mendez-Lopez, 18, of Hyattsville.

Alvarado-Requino, Hernandez-Guevara, Juarez-Vasquez and Tejada-Cruz face a maximum sentence of life in prison, while Rodriguez, Contreras, Orellana-Estrada and Mendez-Lopez face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise. Both Orellana-Estrada and Mendez-Lopez face additional 20-year sentences while Tejada-Cruz and Hernandez-Guevara face additional 10-year sentences for extortion charges.

“The work on that federal indictment was done by prosecutors in my office and then the men and women who work for (Montgomery County Police Chief) Tom Manger in the police department,” said State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy about the indictment.

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Council gives MCPD gang money

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MoCo LogoOn Tuesday the County Council agreed to give the Montgomery County Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s office a combined $843,693 to fight the County’s rising gang problem.

The money, which the Council approved unusually quickly immediately after the public hearing without a Public Safety Committee meeting, will allow the State’s Attorney’s office to start a new gang unit and allow the police department to better organize their efforts on combating gang violence.

“I did not want an additional week to go by without our taking this matter up, getting a public hearing scheduled so we could act on the same day,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-1).

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County Council’s joint committee discusses surge in gang activity

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ROCKVILLE – Police say they are in the process of reacting to an unusually high level of gang activity during the last eight months.

Speaking to a joint County Council committee this week, Police Chief Tom Manger said his department is investigating several homicides directly related to gang activity.

 “We’ve had an unprecedented number of homicides, gang-related homicides,” Manger said. “We typically have in any given year, one – in a bad year – maybe two gang-related homicides…last year we had eight -- that is unprecedented.”

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Trials For Ongoing Gang Activities

gavel2Two areas of criminal activity that are much discussed at the present time are sexual assaults and gang related activity, which sometimes overlap. The State often has an interest when presenting criminal charges in including gang related charges with other crimes. How the Court handles such cases is illustrated by a recent case from Maryland’s intermediate appellate court called Andrez Cortez v. State of Maryland.

The Court’s opinion indicates that Mr. Cortez showed a co-worker a video on his cell phone of three men having sex with a woman who appeared to be “out of it.”  The co-worker recognized the voice providing commentary on the tape as the defendant, and he told his boss who called the police.  A search of the defendant’s apartment produced another similar video, and witnesses identified the voice as that of Mr. Cortez.

It was apparent from the video that that the videographer not only touched the victim himself, but made comments related to a particular gang and gang members. The Defendant admitted to the police that he had brought this gang to Montgomery County and was a member. The police identified the victim, who became very upset when shown the video. She said she had gone to a party and drunk some beer, but then became very sleepy. She awoke the next day to find she had been robbed, but was not even aware she had been sexually assaulted.

The State charged Cortez with three sex offenses, and also for participating in gang related activity. The defense attorney asked that the gang charge be set for a separate trial, arguing that the sex offenses were separate allegations and it was too prejudicial for the jury to also hear about a gang. The trial judge ordered one trial on all charges, and the defendant was convicted.  The appellate court upheld the decision to try the gang related charges with all the other crimes.

The Court noted that whether to order a separate trial on charges depends upon 1) whether the same evidence would be admissible in both trials, and 2) whether the interest of judicial economy in trying related charges from the same facts was outweighed by other considerations. Here, the Court found that gang related evidence was relevant to motive and identity of the defendant, and upheld holding one trial in this case. This illustrates how gang related charges may also support prosecution for related crimes.

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