California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Death penalty sought against alleged Sureño in major Bay Area racketeering case

Death house, Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary, Indiana
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Justice has decided to pursue a rare federal death penalty case against one of 10 alleged San Francisco gang members arrested and charged last year in a massive racketeering case.

The lone death penalty defendant, Michael “Gallo” Rebolledo, 31, is charged with three murders, including participation in a 2006 quadruple shooting in San Francisco. 

Federal prosecutors say that in addition to the murder charges, they intend to prove that Rebolledo, “represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of other persons” and that he “is likely to commit criminal acts of violence in the future that would constitute a continuing and serious threat to the lives and safety of others,” two assistant U.S. attorneys wrote in court records.

Rebolledo and his co-defendants face a range of charges that including numerous shootings and seven murders — six in San Francisco and one in Richmond. The other defendants are identified as Jonathan “Trompo” Aguilar, 32; Luis “Lonely Boy” Cid-Salinas, 34; Juan “Huero” Gallardo, 30; Josue “Ghost” Gonzalez, 37; Orlando “Chisto” Hernandez, 36; Mario “Shy Boy” Reyes, 39; Luis “Grizzly” Rojas, 32; Eddy “Rhino” Urbina, 30; and Weston “Cartoon” Venegas, 31.

All 10 defendants are alleged to be part of two different Sureño subset gangs, based in 16th and 19th streets in San Francisco. 

They have been charged under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO, a federal law that originated as an anti-mafia statute used to target criminal organizations.

In the 2018 indictment, prosecutors described Rebolledo as a founding member of the 16th Street Sureños who has participated in numerous shootings and distributed firearms to fellow gang members. In addition to the three murders, prosecutors say Rebolledo had a hand in two shootings where victims were paralyzed.

Prosecutors did not explain in court records why Rebolledo was singled out for the death penalty. Most of the defendants face at least one murder charge, and Aguilar is alleged to have also participated in the 2006 shooting Rebolledo was charged with.

The seven homicide victims’ names have been left out of court records, but some have been identified through media reports and public records.

Two of the victims died as a result of a shooting on March 24, 2006, in the 1900 block of Mission Street in San Francisco, in which four people were shot. One of the victims was identified in published reports as Russell Lee Cummins, 26, who died after being shot, and whose last name is spelled “Cummings” in another report. Another victim died from medical complications several months later, and has not been publicly identified.

Another double homicide occurred on Sept. 4, 2008, and claimed the lives of 19-year-old Noel Espinoza and 23-year-old Matthew Solomon, according to a published report. Federal prosecutors identified Rojas as the gunman and Gonzalez as the getaway driver, and allege that Urbina was “in the vicinity” of the shooting, which took place near Utah Street and 24th Street in San Francisco.

Another of the victims has been identified as 16-year-old Salvador Cortez. He was shot and killed in February 2009 after he stepped outside of a home in the 3100 block of Ohio Street. Cortez and others were celebrating a family member’s birthday at the time. Gallardo has been identified as Cortez’s suspected shooter.

The group is next due in court Dec. 18 for a status hearing, court records show.

Source: mercurynews.com, Nate Gartrell, December 2, 2019

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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