On a summer evening in the mid-nineties, I drove my patrol car down a Hilltop street, turned a corner and came upon what could only be described as a large football huddle.
A royal blue football huddle.
The Hilltop Crips were a formidable presence in those days, and a cop driving solo past this spectacle had to choose his next move carefully. Round the corner, grab the radio, circle the block and come back with more cops only to find an empty street corner.
A high-profile sighting such as this, which was orchestrated to hide an event such as a “jumping in” or a dogfight, was common during that period. Since that time, the Hilltop Crips have been pushed out of their neighborhood by the combination of community activism and aggressive police work.
But these gang members have not been idle, as evidenced by the recent conspiracy arrests, based on a plethora of criminal activity.
Unfortunately, Judge Felnagle could not quite swallow the conspiracy issue when it came to this group.
Judge for yourself.
A conspiracy, according to state law, occurs when one or more individuals plan a crime, and then one or more of those involved take a substantial step toward the completion of that crime.
The individuals, in this case, are an alleged gang. Let’s look at the legal language for that entity.
A criminal street gang is a group with three or more members who share a common name or identifying symbol, and whose primary purpose is criminal activity.
To state the obvious, the Hilltop Crips are a criminal street gang. To jump to the conspiracy issue, one could infer that these men joined the gang with the knowledge that their street cred depended on crime rather than selling cookies. In most cases, the gang members not only took the substantive step towards completing the crimes, they got the job done.
Thus, in the wake of the judge’s assertions that the overall conspiracy issue is moot, we know two things for sure.
One, we won’t need to spend $400,000 to remodel the courtrooms.
Two, a new legal tool for incarcerating extremely violent individuals, who happen to belong to a street gang, has been rendered useless.
For those of us who were rooting for the cops, the prosecutors and public safety, that’s a shame.