With a jury selected Monday morning, the retrial of Raymond Daniel Macias got under way in Santa Maria, and a prosecutor called him a top-level gang leader in Santa Barbara County who ordered the kidnapping and torture of a Lompoc drug user.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen gave her opening statement on Monday afternoon in the case against Macias, known by the gang moniker of Boxer. He faces a count of kidnapping for extortion plus a gang enhancement and another special allegation because a gun was involved.
Defense attorney Michael Scott is scheduled to make his opening statement Tuesday afternoon in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
Judge Patricia Kelly is presiding over the trial.
The retrial comes almost two months after a jury said it could not reach a verdict in the counts of kidnapping for extortion and solicitation for extortion against Macias. They did find him guilty of torture and sale of methamphetamine.
The same panel convicted his co-defendant Luis “Lucky” Almanza of kidnapping for extortion and torture, plus special allegations for use of a firearm, gang involvement and use of a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Macias “ran” all the gangs in Santa Barbara County, according to Bramsen. A Santa Barbara resident, he belonged to the Eastside Krazies.
“He is a hard-core Sureno gang member who worked directly for the Mexican Mafia for three years,” Bramsen said, adding that he was responsible for seeing that “taxes” were collected on drug sales in the county and delivering the proceeds to a Mexican Mafia representative. “The Mexican Mafia is all about the money.”
The case stems from the Jan. 3, 2013, kidnapping and torture of a gang member known as “Sicko,” who reportedly owed Macias hundreds of dollars in taxes.
“You are going to meet a group of hardcore gang members in this case,” Bramsen told the jury.
In all, nine people were indicted by the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury, officials announced in June 2013, and many are testifying for the prosecution.
Gangs make money by selling drugs, fencing stolen property and doing other criminal activity, she added.
“Not paying taxes is one of the most serious offenses a gang member can do,” she said, adding gangs use fear and violence to ensure against tax scofflaws.
Although Sicko was charged with collecting taxes from Lompoc Westside VLP gang members, he wasn’t being paid and also used drugs, both of which quickly put him in debt to Macias, according to Bramsen.
“If you don’t make a payment there are severe consequences including death,” Bramsen said.
On Jan. 3, 2013, several gang members, including one with gun, took Sicko to a garage in Lompoc, where Almanza used the dull side of a hatchet to hit the victim, breaking his arm. Almanza also used a sharp blade to slice Sicko’s torso. They later bound and gagged Sicko while waiting for Macias to arrive.
“There’s no doubt in his mind he is going to die that day,” Bramsen said of Sicko.
Through recordings from an informant with the gang moniker of Happy, Bramsen said, the jury will hear some defendants talk about plans to kill Sicko and bury his body on a nearby ranch. The final planned involved Sicko agreeing to be “poked,” or stabbed, and paying the back taxes he owed to Macias.
In a jail recording from January, Macias refers to a gang member who will testify against him in the trial, telling his girlfriend, “He was there when I had Sicko,” Bramsen told the jury.
The retrial is expected to stretch into September.