California Sanctuary State – Initially Called Crime by MS-13 Gang Member ‘Road Rage’
According to the Los Angeles Times, while introducing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in late August, Governor Jerry Brown said America is “the other Mexico,” he “spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California.” He “nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn’t matter if they had permission to be in the United States.”
“You’re all welcome in California,” Brown said.
An informant told the FBI in 2006 that Edwin Ramos had killed a gang rival in the Mission District, records show, raising questions about why Ramos wasn’t taken off the streets before his infamous slaying of a man and his two sons in San Francisco in 2008.
Documents filed in a separate San Francisco murder case say Jaime Martinez, a leader of the MS-13 gang who became a paid government informant – and whose niece was once married to Ramos – met with FBI agents in April 2006.
Martinez told the agents that Ramos, also an MS-13 member, had killed a rival Norteño nicknamed “Chino,” using a disguise to sneak up on him and shoot him at 25th and Capp streets, according to the legal filing last week by attorney Dennis Riordan.
Riordan said the information is in an FBI report summarizing an interview by an agent, filed April 11, 2006.
Two weeks before the FBI interview, Rolando “Chino” Valladares, 21, had been gunned down at the Mission District intersection. No one has ever been arrested in the killing, and a police spokesman declined to discuss it, citing the “open investigation.”
Ramos’ attorney did not return calls seeking comment.
Valladares’ father, Jose Marquez Jr., said the warehouse worker at Macy’s had been shot while walking with his wife, who saw an SUV drive away but little more. Valladares was a Norteño in his youth, his father said, but left the gang after the birth of his two sons, who are now 5 and 6.
Marquez said police had never told the family anything about the investigation.
“It brings hope,” he said of the information about Ramos, “that somebody might know something that we haven’t known for years.”
A jury convicted Ramos in May of murdering San Francisco residents Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, on an Excelsior neighborhood street after mistaking at least one of the sons for a gang rival. Ramos, 25, was sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The killings on June 22, 2008, gained national attention after The Chronicle reported that city juvenile-justice officials, relying on San Francisco’s sanctuary-city policy, had twice shielded Ramos, a suspected illegal immigrant from El Salvador, from possible deportation after he committed a gang-related assault and an attempted robbery as a minor.
Since then, questions have also been raised about what federal authorities knew about Ramos as they built a racketeering case against MS-13 – and why they did not either arrest or deport Ramos before the Bologna killings.
Marti McKee, a Bologna family friend and spokeswoman, said the family had never been told that Ramos was fingered by a government informant for the killing of Valladares in 2006.
“It’s been very frustrating for the family to know that Ramos may have committed other crimes, and had been the subject of a federal investigation prior to the (Bologna) murders, and yet he was left on the streets,” McKee said. “There’s no question that’s been very upsetting news for them to hear.”
More than two dozen other MS-13 members were indicted on federal charges that included murder and racketeering in October 2008, a case dubbed “Operation Devil Horns” that hinged on informants like Martinez and ultimately crippled the gang in San Francisco.
Defense attorneys in the federal case said Ramos had been a target of the probe for about three years before the Bologna killings. He was not among those indicted.
A January 2011 court filing in the case by defense attorney Martin Sabelli said federal authorities had repeatedly been told of criminal acts by Ramos – that he carried a pistol, brokered gun sales, took part in a gunfight with rivals and sold cocaine.
Federal authorities “could have arrested him at any time and either charged him with criminal offenses or deported him to his native El Salvador,” Sabelli wrote.
‘A single mega-case’
He accused the government of allowing Ramos and several other suspects to “remain at large in order to accomplish its goal of indicting them all in a single mega-case.”
The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco said at the time that the claim it had delayed arresting or deporting Ramos was “without any factual support.” Prosecutors accused defense attorneys of seeking to exploit the Bologna murders to taint the MS-13 case.
Federal prosecutors, though, provided no details about the government’s handling of Ramos. They declined to comment Friday about the latest court filing.
Peter Lee, an FBI spokesman, said the agency could not comment on its dealings with Ramos because the MS-13 cases are still being fought in court.
He stressed that the FBI does not make decisions on whether to charge suspects. “We always do our due diligence to provide for public safety,” Lee said.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, released a statement referring to San Francisco police arresting and jailing Ramos on suspicion of gun possession in March 2008. Ramos was not charged, but could have been deported.
Kice said her agency received an electronic alert about Ramos only after he had been freed, and “made multiple attempts to locate Mr. Ramos.”
Officials at the Sheriff’s Department, which runs the city’s jails, have said federal officials told them at the time not to put an immigration hold on Ramos.
Last week’s legal filing by Riordan also says Martinez, the informant, told FBI and immigration agents in October 2005 that Ramos had admitted to two other shootings in the Mission District, including one at a coin laundry.
The reliability of Martinez and other MS-13 informants was repeatedly attacked during the federal racketeering case. Martinez helped the government for money and to “save my own skin,” he once testified, a reference to a gun charge in 2005. He acted as a leader of the gang even after becoming an informant.
One defense attorney called Martinez “manipulative and deceptive” during the closing arguments of one trial. In the end, however, almost all of the defendants were convicted.
Martinez’s account of the Valladares killing is contained in a legal filing made last week at the state First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco by Riordan, who is seeking to overturn a client’s 2007 conviction for second-degree murder and gang crimes.
The client, Marcos Reis-Campos, is serving 50 years to life in prison for the slaying of MS-13 leader Guillermo “Memo” Fuentes in June 2004.
Reis-Campos testified at trial that he had acted to save his own life after Fuentes threatened him. But prosecutors said Reis-Campos had sought only to protect gang turf and elevate his status by killing Fuentes, who was with his 6-year-old son at the time.
Snipped from report
According to Riordan, Martinez told the FBI that Fuentes had trained Ramos how to disguise himself to sneak up on rival Norteños, but Reis-Campos was not able to use the information about Ramos and the Valladares killing at trial because it was redacted from an FBI report.
Prosecutors also misled the jury by painting a “relatively benign picture” of Fuentes, Riordan said.