Im dating a gang member

But the prosecution argued that spray-painting over a rival’s mural was an aggressive act intended to incite violence — the equivalent of firing a shot.

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But Greg Bentley, Sebourn’s lawyer, told me that his client couldn’t have been charged with murder without it.He said, “The only way a jury is ever going to be able to connect something as minor as spray painting over a wall to a murder conviction is by adding a gang enhancement.”In California, gang enhancements became law in the late 1980s, at a time when chaos and violence in some of the state’s cities had reached alarming levels.But according to the prosecution, Sebourn had set the entire chain of events in motion a few hours before the shooting, when he and two of his co-defendants tagged a mural eulogizing dead Norteños in an alley behind the building where Gomez lived.Sebourn and the others were caught in the act and beaten by Norteños, though they got away with little more than scrapes and bruises.The feud between them often turns deadly, and according to Thomas Brennan, the district attorney, this was one such instance: Sebourn and his co-defendants were Sureño gang members hunting for rivals on Valentine’s Day in 2013, when they found Gomez, out on a walk with his girlfriend.

Brennan was not saying that Sebourn had fired the gun; in fact, the accused shooter, Giovanni Barocio, had evaded arrest and is believed to be in Mexico, while witnesses and time-stamped 911 calls made it difficult to believe Sebourn had even been present at the scene when Gomez was killed.The violence had spilled out of the ethnic enclaves where gangs thrived, and the public demanded action.The State Legislature responded with the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection Act (STEP Act), Statute 186.22 of the penal code, which, for the first time, legally defined “gang” in the state of California: a formal or informal group of three or more, sharing a common identifying name, symbol or sign, and whose primary activity is crime.When the STEP Act became law, there were dissenting voices, some of them unsurprising, like the American Civil Liberties Union.But there were others you might not expect: Among law-enforcement authorities, for example, there were concerns that the STEP Act could be applied too broadly.The center of the crisis was Los Angeles, where there were more than 800 homicides in 1987.