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California Briefing / Los Angeles

Judge denies bail in gang case

July 01, 2009|Esmeralda Bermudez

A federal judge on Tuesday denied bail to a nationally known gang interventionist who was arrested last week on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges.

Judge Alicia G. Rosenberg said Alex Sanchez, the executive director of Homies Unidos, poses a risk to the community.

Sanchez, who has been praised for his role as a charismatic peacemaker among Los Angeles gangs, is accused of conspiring with fellow gang members to kill a man in El Salvador, as well as other crimes. Federal prosecutors said Sanchez had duped the community while leading a double life as a gang leader.

According to authorities, Sanchez held ties to the Mara Salvatrucha, an infamous transnational gang. Wiretaps from 2006 caught Sanchez and others plotting the death of a rival, according to prosecutors.

Sanchez sat somberly at the front of a courtroom overflowing with supporters as his attorney called the allegations laughable and weak. The attorney read more than 100 letters from community members pleading with Rosenberg to release Sanchez on bail.

But Rosenberg rejected their arguments, concluding that "the issue of danger is powerful."

Sanchez's supporters gathered for a news conference outside the court building after the hearing. They held signs, chanted his name and vowed to fight for a fair trial. They said Sanchez's attorney might appeal the bail ruling.

-- Esmeralda Bermudez

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