Defense Tape Portrays Alleged Gang Member as Peacemaker
After prosecutors played audiotapes depicting the defendants in the Mexican Mafia federal trial as murderers and drug dealers, a defense attorney sought to portray his client differently Thursday by playing a tape indicating that he favored the end of drive-by shootings to stop gang violence.
On a tape played in court by defense attorney Jay T. Lichtman, defendant and reputed mafia member Raymond “Huero Shy” Shryock was heard saying that he supported improved educational opportunities for Latinos and that money collected by the prison gang might help finance day-care centers. An ex-con with a long history of violence, Shryock also offered to go to schools to speak out against gang violence.
“I support ending the drive-bys” to stop needless violence in parts of Los Angeles, Shryock was heard to say.
Those comments were in sharp contrast to others he made on government tapes, in which Shryock dominated talk with demands that enemies of the Eme, Spanish for the letter M and the prison gang’s nickname, “get blasted.”
Lichtman played the tape to contradict Ernest “Chuco” Castro, the prosecution’s key witness, who is in his second week of cross-examination in the trial. Thirteen suspected members and associates of the prison gang are on trial on charges of murder, drug dealing and extortion in the federal racketeering case.
The tape, played by Lichtman over prosecution objections, was of a 1995 dinner meeting at a Long Beach restaurant in which Shryock and others tried to convince a Long Beach newspaper reporter of the prison gang’s good intentions.
Shryock and Castro, who was also present at the meeting, were heard complaining that the organization was not credited by authorities for favoring a ban on drive-by shooting.
Too often, they said on the tape, law enforcement belittled their efforts aimed at peace. In fact, Castro was heard to say, police officers infiltrated large gang meetings organized to promote peace, prompting Castro and others to stop having such meetings.
G.M. Bush, a reporter for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, was at the 1995 restaurant meeting and met Shryock two weeks later at the defendant’s El Monte home for more discussions. Bush, contacted late Thursday, said “nothing definitive” resulted from the meetings.
Bush said Shryock and Castro talked at length about their criminal past but never told him they were involved in the Mexican Mafia.
According to government tapes played at the trial, Eme members considered approaching another Los Angeles reporter, Joe Rico of KNBC-TV, to do a favorable story on the group. Rico, however, told The Times he never got such a request from the secretive gang.