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MS 13 gang member sentenced in killing

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ROCKVILLE — A Montgomery County judge sentenced MS-13 gang member Juan Gutierrez-Vazquez, age 17, to 40 years in prison Feb. 8 for his role in a June 2016 murder that took place in a Gaithersburg park.

“40 years behind bars is a long time for him to think about the crime he has committed but not nearly as long as a lifetime of sorrow that Berta, the mom of Cristian Villagran-Morales has to think about the loss of her son,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney.

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Trump uses local killing to justify immigration crackdown

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WASHINGTON — When a Fairfax County jury convicted Wilmer Sanchez-Serrano last November for his role in the stabbing death of 15-year-old Watkins Mill High School student Damaris A. Reyas Rivas one year before, one might have reasonably assumed Rivas’ loved ones could put her tragic death behind them and, with at least one of her killers behind bars, begin to heal.

But in their quest to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, the Trump administration returned Rivas to the headlines Wednesday when Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan invoked her name at a White House law enforcement roundtable on MS-13, the gang to which Sanchez-Serrano – as well as the other 10 suspects arrested in connection with her death – claimed membership.

“In January of last year, Damaris Reyes Rivas, a 15-year-old girl from a suburb of D.C., was stabbed 13 times with knives and a wooden stake by MS-13 members,” Cronan said, while briefing President Donald Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen, and several members of Congress. “Damaris's killers filmed her murder so that they could show their leaders back in El Salvador, and Damaris's body was then barbarically dumped next to railroad tracks that run under the Beltway,” he said.

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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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County youth coordinator shows the way out of gangs

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Perhaps few know the County gang problems better than Luis Cardona.

Twenty-six years ago, the now Youth Street Outreach coordinator for Montgomery County was lying down in a parking lot covered in his own blood with five bullet wounds in the chest, back and arms, where he prayed to God for forgiveness.

Cardona said doctors at District of Columbia General Hospital told him it was a “miracle” he survived. The shooting was a target assignation for Cardona, who at the time was a member of the Latin Kings gang, and he made the mistake of beating up a rival gang member after a night of drinking.

“Gang life is a long-term way of committing suicide,” Cardona said.

It was not the first time Cardona had been shot, and was one in a series of events that led to Cardona’s gradual shift away from gang life. Cardona, 50, survived and made his way out of gang life to become one of Montgomery County’s leading voices for change. Cardona, a former gang member, now spends trying to steer kids from going down the path he took when he was young.

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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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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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Man convicted in murder of transgender woman

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Rico LeBlond, the man charged in the murder of transgender woman Zella Ziona, was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday.

The jury convicted LeBlond, 22, guilty on one count of first-degree murder for the 2015 murder of Ziona.

“Today’s conviction of Rico LeBlond on First Degree Murder is justice attained for Deandre Smith, a young man living as Zella Ziona,” said State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy. “This was a cold blooded execution of a person he knew since grade-school.” According to police, Ziona’s gender identity may have played a role in her murder.

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MS-13 gang member sentenced for crimes

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Edwin E. Reyes-Martinez, a member of the notorious Central American gang MS-13, was sentenced June 27 to 34 years in prison for second-degree murder and accessory to two other murders.

According to police records, Reyes-Martinez, 19, was the lookout for the murder of Marvin Vargas-Osorio whom MS-13 game members stabbed to death. According Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the State’s Attorney for Montgomery County, Reyes-Martinez was convicted of second-degree murder for the murder of Vargas-Osorio.

“Thirty-four years in prison will give Mr. Reyes-Martinez a long time to think about what he has done. If you play any role in violence like these two murders, you will be apprehended, you will be prosecuted and you will do real jail time,” said State’s Attorney for Montgomery County John McCarthy.

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Sen. Cardin talks issues with Montgomery County Council

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ben cardinSen. Ben Cardin   COURTESY PHOTO  

ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Council members talked with Sen. Ben Cardin (D) about several local issues such as Metro, immigration and policing at a lunch meeting in Rockville on Monday.

The day before, President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke at a memorial service for five Dallas police officers that were killed by a gunman last week. Cardin said there is a sense of bipartisan unity in the Senate.

“I have talked to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and you know it is a general sense of just frustration and anger when you see these type of episodes occur too frequently in the United States and around the world,” Cardin said. “So yes, I think there is a real belief that we are better than this and that there needs to be a way to keep our community safe. We need better relationships between community and law enforcement.”

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