Man With Clean Criminal Record Jailed For Murder Over Facebook Posts
A Las Vegas man was taken into custody and carted back to his hometown of San Diego in July 2014. He had no idea why he was being picked up until authorities let him know he was being taken in for a string of murders in the state of California. Even though he was positive that he had never killed anyone — and ironically, the DA in charge of his arrest was certain of this too — his perceived association with gang members who may have had landed him behind bars.
Via Voice of San Diego:
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is using an obscure criminal statute, Penal Code section 182.5, for what appears to be the first time ever in California to prosecute a group of 15 San Diego men, including Harvey. The DA has admitted that some of the men had nothing to do with the underlying crimes at the heart of the case – a series of shootings by Lincoln Park gang members in 2013. Rather, they’re charged with conspiracy for belonging to the same gang as the shooters. For that, they could go to prison for life.
It’s guilt by association, basically, and if federal law is any guide, it’s perfectly constitutional.
The law says a person who “willfully promotes, furthers, assists, or benefits” from a gang crime can be charged with conspiracy. The benefit Harvey received out of the shootings, according to the DA, is street cred. If someone in the gang commits a crime, the reasoning goes, the whole gang gets a boost to its reputation.
“They’re saying I benefited because my stature, my respect, went up. I didn’t even know I had any stature. I don’t understand how someone can benefit from something they don’t even know exists,” said Harvey. “It’s not a quantifiable thing, there’s no measure for stature. They’re the ones quantifying it.”
You may recall a local rapper was arrested under the same code last month, for his own perceived affiliation with the same gang — except his “crime” was name-dropping gang members and landmarks that associate him.
But Harvey’s association with the gang comes from “evidence” compiled mainly from Facebook:
Harvey’s case has none of those sexy First Amendment issues. Much of the evidence being presented against him isn’t rap lyrics but Facebook posts that prosecutors say link him unmistakably to the Lincoln Park gang. But he, like Duncan, has no criminal record and is facing up to life in prison if convicted.
Harvey insists he’s no gang member – just a victim of living in a gang-heavy neighborhood, and thus, falling into the state’s gang database by virtue of having been seen in gang territory and socializing with other gang members, i.e., his friends and neighbors.
First they justify killing us, now they find creative shortcuts to justify putting us all in jail for crimes we didn’t commit. SMH.
Dustin Michelson / Voice Of San Diego