A state appeal court on Friday threw out the first conviction obtained under a controversial court order that bars a Panorama City street gang from a wide range of otherwise legal activities, ruling that it was prosecuted in the wrong court.
The Los Angeles city attorney's office should have gone to Van Nuys Superior Court, not Municipal Court, when it prosecuted Jessie (Speedy) Gonzalez for alleged violations of a sweeping injunction issued two years ago against the Blythe Street Gang, the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled.
The court's ruling, based on interpretation of complex legal procedure, means that prosecutors have to start over in about a dozen cases, said Richard A. Schmidt, supervisor at the Van Nuys branch of the city attorney's office.
Left undecided is a central issue--whether the injunction itself passes legal muster. That decision, the court said, has to wait for a conviction that is rightfully obtained in the proper court.
Since the 22-point injunction was issued by Van Nuys Superior Court Judge John H. Major in April, 1993, it has provided inspiration for other court orders directed against street gangs around Southern California.
Aimed at curbing drug sales and intimidation of residents around Blythe Street, it bars gang members from standing on rooftops, from being on private property without written permission of the owner or from possessing pagers, glass bottles, flashlights, whistles, cellular phones and walkie-talkies.
In August, 1993, Gonzalez, then 18, was convicted in Municipal Court of violating the injunction by possessing a pager and a glass bottle, among other infractions. Judge Lloyd Nash sentenced Gonzalez to 90 days in jail.
Because of time already served, Gonzalez actually was released after serving about a month behind bars.
Though the jail sentence was already complete, the public defender's office nevertheless appealed Gonzalez's conviction, contending there was an important--but highly technical--legal issue at stake.
Prosecutors opted to charge Gonzalez in Municipal Court rather than Superior Court.
The appeals panel reversed Gonzalez's conviction and ordered a new trial, saying charges under the injunction must be filed in Superior Court.