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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

San Francisco MS-13 Gang Wasn't Violent Enough for Edwin Ramos, Witness Says

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Page 3 of 3

Allegation: Immigration authorities let Ramos stay in country to make their mega-gang case

Defense attorney Martin Sabelli, who represents a gang member currently on trial, says the government knew, through its informants, about Ramos long before he allegedly killed the Bolognas in 2008. In fact, Sabelli is alleging "outrageous government conduct" in the handling of Ramos, which has been reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Sabelli wrote in a motion filed earlier this year that the blowback against San Francisco's sanctuary city policy for allegedly shielding Ramos from deportation is misplaced. He says ICE blew its chance to take Ramos into custody.

The city had shielded Ramos twice from immigration authorities when he was arrested as a juvenile, because of the juvenile probation department's old policy. But Ramos was arrested on a gun possession charge in March 2008 as an adult and booked into San Francisco County Jail.

The issue of who goofed when letting Ramos fall through the cracks is in dispute. According to news reports, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department insisted it alerted ICE that Ramos was in custody no more than four hours after he'd been booked into county jail. Meanwhile, ICE counters that it learned about Ramos only two hours after he'd been released.

Still, Sabelli writes that the government's informants within the gang had been giving ICE information about Ramos' alleged conduct since 2006 -- including a shoot-out with Nortenos, a gun possession in 2008, and an alleged homicide. He said ICE had more than enough information  to swoop in and arrest him: He alleges "they knew he had lived at addresses in San Francisco and El Sobrante and that he frequented the El Toro nightclub and other MS-13 hangouts."

Sabelli has his own hypothesis. "It is apparent that the reason Ramos was repeatedly released and was allowed to remain in San Francisco was because he was a target in the 'Devil Horns' operation and the government wished to arrest the bulk of those targets in a near-simultaneous 'megacase' takedown," he wrote.

Federal agents arrested 26 alleged gang members on one day in October 2008 after a three-year investigation, putting together an indictment for MS-13's ongoing racketeering conspiracy since 1995.

Sabelli writes that ICE officers had attempted to arrest Ramos: Agents tried to find him in July 2006 at a house in El Sobrante to arrest him for his illegal immigrant status and gang affiliation. They had no luck, and it appears never tried again.

Reaction from the Bologna family

Matt Davis is the attorney for Danielle Bologna, the wife of Tony Bologna, and mother of their two sons, who were killed in the 2008 triple homicide. She sued the city soon after, alleging its sanctuary city policy had allowed Ramos back out on the streets where he allegedly killed her family. A Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year, saying San Francisco was not liable.

When told about the allegations in Sabelli's motion, Davis said he takes them with "a grain of salt," given they come from a defense attorney attempting to get the case against his client dropped.

Still, if Sabelli's accusations were to found to be true, that would be "distressing news," Davis told SF Weekly. "It would move the anger about what happened away from the city to some other folks if it turns out the feds did know he was here, committing crimes, and decided for other reasons not to move him away out of the country."

"It certainly washes the blood off the city's hands, and moves it elsewhere, but I don't know if it's true," he added.

Update, May 3: Ramos' defense attorney Marla Zamora says that she does not debate that Ramos was, indeed, an MS-13 member up until 2005. She says Ramos then "jumped out" of the gang and was no longer active.

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Lauren Smiley


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