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New Trial Date Set for Santa Barbara Gang Injunction

The trial date for the gang injunction sought by the City of Santa Barbara was pushed to May on Monday after a Superior Court judge decided to skip the request for a preliminary injunction.

Judge Colleen Sterne said the efforts to get a temporary injunction now, almost three years into the complex civil case, “makes absolutely no sense.”

She said the same thing in October 2011.

Since the evidence in the motion for a preliminary injunction was essentially the same as for a permanent one, there was no reason to delay the trial for a permanent injunction, she said then.

On Monday morning, she reminded attorneys of her earlier statements, and reiterated there was no reason to hold two trials for the same matter.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney and City Attorney’s offices filed the case in March 2011, and named the Eastside gang, the Westside gang and 30 alleged members as the defendants.

Santa Barbara’s proposed injunction claims gangs are a public nuisance and wants the court to limit the activities of these named people within “safety zones” throughout the city.

In December, acting City Attorney Sarah Knecht filed a motion for a temporary injunction, saying the city needs immediate relief.

It was filed because the city and county wanted a more expeditious hearing, Assistant District Attorney Hilary Dozer said. Instead, the trial date was pushed from March 17 to May 5, after defense attorneys asked for more time for discovery.

Some law enforcement officers most likely will testify in person, including a gang expert and Santa Barbara police Detective Gary Siegel, who wrote a very long declaration for the injunction case, Dozer said.

They will talk about the impact gangs have on local neighborhoods, but a lot of the evidence will be submitted in writing.

About half of the 30 defendants have attorneys, and the entire defense team will prepare for a full trial now, attorney Tara Haaland-Ford said.

“I don’t think you can do a case like this without cooperating,” she said.

The defense attorneys will probably have an expert, community members and several of the clients testify. Community members who live in the proposed safety zones would talk about whether gangs are a public nuisance, Haaland-Ford said.

At Monday’s case management conference, Sterne didn’t mention the amicus brief filed by the ACLU of Southern California, which questioned the legality of the proposed gang injunction. The ACLU doesn’t represent any of the defendants in this case, but the organization has experience with injunction cases in other California cities.

It’s unclear if Sterne will consider the ACLU’s arguments in this case.

Protesters came to the hearing for the first time, many of them with tape over their mouths and handmade shirts saying “student,” “teacher,” “husband” or “father."

Many of the same people flooded a recent City Council meeting with anti-injunction comment, asking for alternative solutions.

Even though the city has been involved in the civil court case for almost three years, there has never been a public vote on the subject, and the City Council hosted only one public hearing, where the elected officials made no comments of their own.

The group plans to keep protesting on freeway overpasses and bridges every weekend until the May trial, according to SBCC student Brandon Morse, who is fundraising for more anti-injunction signs.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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