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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 1:09 pm | Fair 62º


Defense Expert Testifies About Phrase ‘Gang Associate’ During Ibarra Murder Trial

“Gang associate” is a loosely defined term that law enforcement officers use to encompass multiple people, an expert testified Tuesday in the Santa Maria trial for the six men charged with the torture and slaying of Anthony Ibarra two years ago.

Gang expert Martin Flores from Los Angeles began testifying for the defense Tuesday in Santa Maria Juvenile Court.

The prosecution team contends Ibarra, 28, was killed in a gang-related torture-slaying in March 2013 in a house on West Donovan Road. His body was found days later in a U-Haul truck parked in Orcutt.

On trial for Ibarra’s death are Ramon Maldonado, his father David Maldonado, Jason Castillo, Reyes Gonzales, Anthony Solis and Santos Sauceda. 

Some of the defendants belonged to gangs while police said others are associates.

A member is someone accepted by the gang, by either being jumped in, committing a crime for the gang, or having family ties, Flores said.

The term associate is interpreted in various ways, Flores said under questioning from defense attorney Addison Steele. He represents Solis, who has been labeled a gang associate.

“Communication by itself should not make you an associate, just like interacting with law enforcement doesn’t make you a cop associate,” Flores said.

Flores added that he wouldn’t automatically classify a drug addict as a gang associate, and said that having relatives who belong to a gang also is not sufficient to deem someone an associate.

“The net is casting too large,” he said.

Buying drugs also doesn’t immediately mean someone is a gang associate, he said.

“It can but it’s not automatic,” Flores said. “You’ve got to put it in perspective to their situation.”

He also said gang members commit crimes that are not necessarily for the benefit for a gang, noting domestic violence cases likely are not in the capacity of a gang. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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