Judge drops charges aganist LA anti-gang activist -- for now

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

A judge Wednesday dismissed federal racketeering and conspiracy to murder charges Alex Sanchez, 41, a well-known Los Angeles gang interventionist. Prosecutors could file new charges if they want.

One early morning in the summer of 2009, Alex Sanchez heard a dozen or more police officers' boots tromping up to his front door.  They were there to arrest him for allegedly living a double life as a “shot caller” for criminal gang members at the same time he lead a non-profit gang intervention group, Homies Unidos.

On Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder against Sanchez -- on the prosecution's motion.

“I want to go home and just tell my family that it’s over,” he said. “But it’s not over. They still have something hanging over me.”

Prosecutors plan to file a new indictment in the 24-defendant case by the end of March. They declined to talk about why they dropped the case --or  whether Sanchez, 41, would be among those re-arrested.

Federal prosecutors had alleged in a grand jury indictment that Sanchez was helping members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang kill a man named Walter “Camaron” Lacinos.

The evidence in the case is sealed, but court filings reveal that authories had taped phone conversations in Spanish between Sanchez and people in El Salvador. Los Angeles Police Department detective Frank Flores had translated the recordings.

“Once the charges were read I did tell Mr. Flores that he had gotten it wrong,” Sanchez said. “But he didn’t not care.”

Sanchez’s attorney, Amy Jacks, accused federal prosecutors in court documents of lying to the grand jury, withholding favorable and exculpatory evidence and failing to correct an indictment based on false information.

Last December, federal prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the case without prejudice. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Yang wrote, “the government agrees that the grand jury presentation with respect to the conspiracy to murder Walter Lacinos, aka 'Camaron,' was flawed.”  

Prosecutors said they are taking a fresh look at the entire case, and requesting documents from El Salvador and the federal Bureau of Prisons department.

Sanchez celebrated the dropped charges outside the courtroom Wednesday with his brother, son, and friends. He said he hoped the prosecution team would leave him alone.

He said he will try to get new funding for Homies Unidos, of which he is executive director. He said the group has been suffering financially and had to scale back operations ever since the indictment.

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