Lawyers Tangle in MS-13 Gang Trial

men handcuffedDefendants in the MS-13 gang trial in San Francisco federal court are behaving better than the lawyers. Today U.S. District Judge William Alsup had just about hit his limit.  Defense lawyer Martin Sabelli complained (with jurors out of the courtroom) that Asst. U.S. Attorney William Frentzen had muttered under his brief after an informant was questioned in the defense case. 

Sabelli complained that at then end of a the defense recalling an informant and questioning him Frentzen muttered, with his back to jurors, that the witness “’should not have been brought here in the first place.’”

Sabelli called it “Disrespectful to the court and to the defense.  It is a problem.  It is increasingly a problem and the court should regulate it.”

 Frentzen quickly responded.  “If the court wants a hit list, I will go back through the transcript of long meandering speaking objections by Mr. Sabelli.” 

Alsup said he didn’t hear any muttering but asked Frentzen, “please no muttering under your breath.  The jury might hear.” 

At that point Frentzen said, “I’m fine with that.” but renewed his complaint against Sabelli.  “I will refer Mr. Sabelli to the staredown incident in front of the jury.  He knows what I’m talking about.” 

Sabelli shrugged.  “I have no idea.”

At that point Alsup broke in, “Alright, you two can go afterwards and slug it out in the hallway.”

The MS-13 trial is a highly publicized crackdown on street gangs and the bests federal gang trial in San Francisco in years.  Currently seven alleged members of the 20th Street clique of the MS-13 gang are on trial in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, drug dealing and aliens in possession of firearms. 

The trial has plodded on for weeks and still has a few more weeks to go.  It is the first wave from the 2008 indictment of 29 alleged gang members indicted by the feds. 

The government has brought in former gang-members turned informant to testify.  And much of the defense case centers on assertions that it was those informants who spawned much of the violence.

Case:  U.S. v. Cerna, CR08-730

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