The case against Raymond Daniel Macias involving a gang-related kidnapping and torture in Lompoc relies on testimony of felons motivated by lighter sentences and lacks any proof Macias ordered the attack, defense attorney Michael Scott said Tuesday afternoon.
Referring to the prosecution witnesses as a “cast of characters” who are longtime gang members and career criminals, Scott delivered his opening statement in the Santa Maria retrial of Macias for the charge of kidnap for extortion plus special allegations for gang and gun involvement.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen delivered her opening statement to the jury in Judge Patricia Kelly’s courtroom Monday afternoon in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
Opening statements from both sides included insight into gang culture, where members must pay “gang taxes” and disrespect toward the gang is considered a major offense. Testifying against gang members is a top offense where a gang member can be “green-lighted,” or targeted for killing, Bramsen noted Monday.
Earlier this summer, a jury in the first trial deadlocked on the kidnap charge but found Macias guilty of torture and sale of methamphetamine.
The case stems from the Jan. 3, 2013 kidnapping and torture of a drug dealer and user known by the gang moniker of “Sicko” who reportedly owed Macias for “gang taxes.”
“Despite a vast amount of investigation, there is not a single piece of solid evidence where Mr. Macias tells anyone to kidnap Sicko,” Scott said.
Instead, those who testify cooperated with police in exchange for cutting deals in their own self interest, he added.
“They committed the crimes, they did not want to do the time,” Scott said.
He added his client is an admitted member of the Santa Barbara-based Eastside Krazies. The prosecution claims that as a high-ranking Sureno, Macias, also known as "Boxer," collected taxes for the Mexican Mafia.
In June 2013, the Santa Barbara Grand Jury handed down indictments against multiple defendants in this case.
But Scott said another gang member — Luis “Lucky” Almanza, Macias’s co-defendant in his first trial — “broke the code” and committed the assault out of embarrassment that he was knocked to the ground by Sicko. The incident left Sicko with a broken arm and other injuries.
“The evidence will show Mr. Macias was a drug dealer. The evidence will show that was his primary motivation,” Scott said.
Scott said he also will show that Macias gave people second and third chances to pay up, “not senseless violence.”
The defense attorney added that Macias was involved with Santa Barbara’s Palabra, which works to minimize youth-on-youth violence.
After Scott’s opening statement, the prosecution’s first witness to take the stand was a third-generation gang member from Lompoc.
Outside the jury’s presence, Scott objected to allowing testimony from the former gang member regarding a recent incident in which he claims he was threatened for snitching on the gang.
Scott contended that the apparent threat was not corroborated and unrelated to his client, while Bramsen said the law doesn’t require a direct threat and said the incident is “highly relevant” to this case.
The judge said the question of whether to allow testimony about the incident would be settled in a to-be-scheduled hearing.