Pasadena Police on Monday released all but one of the seven men arrested last week under a gang-affiliation law because the district attorney's office did not file charges against them.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark S. Arnold, who handles gang cases in Pasadena, told officers that he needed more time to determine whether the 3-year-old law could be used to try people for simply belonging to a gang, Lt. Van B. Anthony said. The prosecutor received the police reports Monday afternoon.
Under state law, a person who has been jailed for 48 hours, not including weekends, must be charged with a crime or set free.
"That's what necessitated their release," Anthony said. "The D.A. asked for more time to evaluate this."
In last Thursday's raids, Pasadena officers arrested eight suspected gang members at their homes and seized 14 firearms. One of the suspects, a 16-year-old juvenile, was released the same day to his parents. Six men were released Monday. Another, Darryl Lynell Davis, 20, remained in jail on a possible parole violation.
Police retained the firearms to determine whether any could be linked to two recent murders investigators believe were committed by gang members. Authorities will seek a court order to destroy any firearms that are not tied to a crime, Anthony said.
Officers originally held the suspects on suspicion of violating the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, which allows prosecutors to seek longer prison sentences against gang members who commit crimes.
The Pasadena Police Department interpreted the law as giving them the authority to arrest people who are merely identified as members of a violent gang, Anthony said. In last week's raids, officers seized gang paraphernalia, including clothing, photographs and written material, to help prove the affiliation.
Arnold, the prosecutor, was off-duty on Tuesday and unavailable to comment on the arrest reports given to him by police.
But John Allen, a supervisor in the district attorney's gang unit, said it is unlikely that charges will be filed unless the suspects are found to have committed a felony as part of their gang activities.
"The person's membership in that group, no matter how bad, is not enough," Allen said.
As a precedent, he cited the McClarren Act, which made it illegal to be member of the Communist Party during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. That law was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pasadena Police turned to the 1988 law as another tool to combat gang violence, Anthony said.
"We really did go through the gate thinking the D.A. would file on it," he said. "Even if I don't have all the ingredients in the stew this time, by virtue of the D.A. reviewing this, it's a learning process for us. Next time, we'll make the stew better."