Feds seek to dismiss charges against anti-gang leader Alex Sanchez
The U.S. attorney's office has filed a motion to dismiss racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder charges against a nationally recognized anti-gang leader named in a 2009 federal indictment targeting several gang members involved in multiple slayings, extortions and assaults.
The request to dismiss an indictment against Alex Sanchez, executive director of Homies Unidos, comes after three years of legal battles. Sanchez was among two dozen alleged members or associates of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, charged in an indictment in 2009.
Federal prosecutors are asking to dismiss the charges without prejudice, leaving the door open for new charges. But in the motion, prosecutors acknowledged that there were issues with information presented to the grand jury. They did not elaborate on their decision. Sanchez's attorney said she could not discuss sealed testimony.
"We applaud the government for conscientiously re-evaluating the case and recognizing that the evidence it presented to the grand jury does not support the charges brought against Alex," said his attorney Amy Jacks.
"This has been a long time coming but the government has now made the right decision by recommending dismissal of the case against Alex. If the court grants the government's motion, Alex can focus on what he has done so well for many years: helping our community with gang intervention and prevention and promoting peaceful solutions to our conflicts."
But prosecutors made it clear in court papers that they plan to refile some charges against Sanchez.
Former state Sen. Tom Hayden, a friend and prominent Sanchez supporter, said much of case was based on taped conversations, and the prosecution version of who is speaking is in doubt after it was questioned by an expert witness and defense attorneys.
In 2009, Sanchez was taken into custody by FBI agents along with several members of MS-13, one of the nation's most ruthless and notorious gangs. The indictment alleged that the gang terrorized the Lafayette Park area west of downtown Los Angeles.
Identified in court papers by the gang name Rebelde, or Rebel, Sanchez was allegedly a gang leader known as a "shot caller." He is accused of conspiring with fellow gang members to kill a man in El Salvador in 2006 and other crimes.
Sanchez broke into tears at a U.S. District Court hearing at which he was read the charges. Before his arrest, he had been winning accolades from politicians and others for his work with Homies Unidos. Sanchez admitted being a member of the MS-13 gang as a youth, but said he had sworn off the gang lifestyle.
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-- Richard Winton
Photo: Supporters of gang interventionist Alex Sanchez rally outside federal court in 2009 to dispute the charges against him. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times