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Ogden gang injunction trial begins

Published June 12, 2012 7:23 am

Courts • The injunction prohibits gang members from associating, sets curfew.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Ogden • "Ogden Trece. Ogden Trece."

The chants of the crowd that had gathered around a horrific car accident could be heard by Officer Kevin Cottrell as he led Mark Mora to a police vehicle.

It was April 22, 2009, and Mora had just led Ogden police on a high-speed chase through the city, ending at the intersection of 28th Street and Washington Boulevard, where Mora crashed his vehicle into another, killing two Weber State University students.

Cottrell, now a lieutenant with the police department, testified Monday in 2nd District Court that the crowd had gathered around the fiery crash, chanting the gang's name, because Mora had been a documented member of the Ogden Trece, one of the city's largest and most active street gangs.

Cottrell was one of several law enforcement officials called to testify Monday in a hearing to determine whether an injunction placed against the gang in 2010 would become permanent within the city.

The injunction, which went into preliminary effect in 2010, prohibits members of the large street gang from associating with each other in the city, sets a curfew and prohibits them from carrying guns or graffiti tools in public.

Prosecutors call the gang a nuisance that needs to be controlled, but defense attorneys representing several alleged gang members the injunction violates their rights.

Others within the Ogden Police Department testified on behalf of prosecutors, telling stories of drive-by shootings, stabbings, assaults and other crimes that all could be pinned on the Treces or rival gangs.

Also, for the first time ever, documented gang members who are currently imprisoned were subpoenaed to take the stand during the first day of trial.

But most didn't have much to say.

"I'd rather not talk about any of this," Elmer Maes Jr. said while on the stand. "I've been served [with the injunction]. I don't see the point of this."

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith questioned Maes and the other inmates about photographs of themselves and other documented Trece members, as well as what their current tattoos were.

Smith said their goal was to have the inmates authenticate the photos, so it could not be argued the images were altered. He also asked questions about the inmates' criminal history, in an attempt to show the judicial system has not been effective in rehabilitating Trece gang members.

But Maes, who is serving time for aggravated assault, said he hasn't been involved with the Trece gang in years. He said he's incarcerated currently because he saw a man assaulting a woman, and took the law into his own hands.

"I've tried to change my appearance," he said, pointing out he grew his hair long to cover atattoo on his head. "But I can't because of my [other] tattoos. I'm just here to do my time and go back to my family. That's the old me [in the photos]."

Prosecutors questioned only four of their planned six inmate witnesses Monday, after Judge Ernie Jones ruled that judicial records and the photographs themselves sufficed.

The Trece's defense team got off to a rocky start Monday morning, doing nothing more than angering the judge with last-minute motions.

Initially, the team tried to argue that Smith should stand as a witness, therefore excluding him from prosecuting the case. Jones denied that motion.

Attorney Mike Boyle also filed a last-minute motion Monday morning challenging Smith's role as county attorney, saying the injunction could be voided because Smith was not officially appointed as county attorney when the injunction was filed.

"I'm just amazed you come in here and file this at 9:15 a.m. on the first day of trial," Jones said, before denying the motion for not being filed in a timely manner.

The trial is scheduled to continue through the week.

jmiller@sltrib.com