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Gang membership and criminal sentencing

gavel2 1 The Trump Administration just recently announced that it was making a priority of prosecuting members of gangs that commit criminal acts, and in particular members of the gang known as MS-13. Maryland’s highest Court just last week addressed whether a sentencing Judge can consider evidence of the defendant’s membership in a gang, even where the underlying crime was not gang related. The case is called Oscar Cruz-Quintanilla v. State of Maryland.
Chief Judge Barbera wrote in the opinion that the defendant was indicted for various crimes related to a home robbery. A jury convicted him of reckless endangerment, wearing/carrying/transporting a handgun, and conspiracy to commit robbery.At sentencing, the prosecution offered for the first time evidence that the defendant had been a member of MS-13. The State called a police Sergeant who testified about and showed pictures of various tattoos on the defendant that showed he belonged to that gang.
The officer said the defendant was a documented gang member since at least 2004. He further testified that members of that gang have to demonstrate loyalty and a willingness to commit violent criminal acts, consistent with its motto translated as “kill, rape, control.”

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Courts rule when mental capacity diminishes

gavel2 1 Maryland criminal statutes protect persons with mental disabilities from sexual crimes. The Court of Appeals last week addressed what must be proven in a rape case to establish the mental condition of the victim in order to prove such a crime, in a case called Miguel Fuentes v. State of Maryland.
The Court’s majority opinion indicates that Fuentes was convicted by a jury of second degree rape and another sexual offense, arising from a sexual encounter he had with a 38 year old coworker at a hotel. The victim, who was deaf, testified through a sign language interpreter to the encounter with the defendant. Her mother testified that the victim was disabled and had attended a high school class for students with disabilities, but was able to work in housekeeping. After noticing a change in her daughter’s behavior, she later discovered she was pregnant and gave birth to a child whom DNA evidence showed had by fathered by the defendant.

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