As the federal racketeering trial of seven accused MS-13 members began winding down Monday, prosecutors depicted the defendants as members of a bloodthirsty gang who often harm bystanders as they seek to attack and kill their rivals.
Monday was the first day of closing arguments in the four-month trial, the culmination of an investigation into the gang’s Bay Area activities. The inquiry led to the indictment of more than 30 alleged members, many of whom have already pleaded guilty to various crimes.
Prosecutor Wilson Leung told jurors the seven men were guilty of crimes including murder, attempted murder, assault, robbery, extortion, drug dealing, conspiracy and threatening witnesses. The violence, Leung said, was all part of an effort to boost the gang’s status in its ongoing rivalry with the Norteños.
"They sought to increase their already-fearsome reputation ... and they ended up spilling blood, a lot of innocent blood, on the streets of San Francisco," Leung said.
The alleged crimes include the shooting murders of four men in 2008. Two of the men, Ernad Joldic, 21, of Daly City and Philip Ng, 24, of San Francisco, were gunned down March 29 of that year in the Excelsior district.
Leung told jurors that Joldic, who was wearing red, was shot along with Ng by one of the defendants, who was hunting Norteños on that day.
"Neither were actually gang members," Leung said.
Norteños claim the color red, while Sureños such as MS-13 wear blue.
Closing arguments are anticipated to last through the week, after which the jury will begin deliberating. The defense, in its rebuttal, is expected to attack the reliability of gang informants who testified for the government during the trial.
The case is being watched by state prosecutors awaiting the upcoming trial of Edwin Ramos, another alleged MS-13 member accused in the June 22, 2008, triple murder of a father and two of his sons in the Excelsior. Police have said that family also was mistaken for rival gang members.
Some of the informants who testified in the federal case also could be called in the Ramos case, prosecutors have said.
One of those informants testified in the federal trial that Ramos left the gang’s 20th Street clique in the Mission district in 2006 to join a more violent MS-13 clique based in Richmond.
Origins of MS-13
MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, has its origins in El Salvador and is considered one of the most violent criminal street gangs in the world. The gang now has more than 10,000 members operating in Central America and the United States, where it began in Los Angeles. It has been operating since at least the 1980s. Individual gangs, or cliques, exist in San Francisco and Richmond.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office