Ogden gang injunction challenged in Supreme Court
An injunction against a homegrown gang in Ogden was challenged Tuesday in Utah's Supreme Court.
The county ordinance against the Ogden Trece gang is intended to curb gang activity in the city by setting limitations on identified gang members, including prohibiting them from associating with each other in public and possessing weapons or graffiti tools, and imposing an 11 p.m. curfew.
Weber County prosecutors and Ogden police officials have deemed the injunction a necessity, saying the gang has been a nuisance in the Ogden community for more than 30 years, and that its members are responsible for murders, drive-by shootings, graffiti and other crimes. But defense attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union have called the injunction an overly broad violation of constitutional rights.
The injunction has been in effect in Ogden since September 2010, though a 2nd District judge didn't make the law permanent until last August. In September, the ACLU, along with defense attorneys David Reymann and Randy Richards, appealed the issue to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Reymann argued before the high court that the injunction is too broad, since the gang is not formally organized and is not a business or established organization. He offered that it would be more appropriate to name each person separately in the injunction, and serve them individually, rather than a blanket restriction on the gang as a whole.
"[County officials] sought the broadest remedy against the largest group of people possible," Reymann said.
He added that only established organizations or businesses can sue or be sued in court, and since the Treces do not have public officers or a president, they cannot be considered an organization.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith rebutted, saying that the gang is organized and they do have leaders, referred to as shot callers. But who is considered a "shot caller" is constantly changing because of incarceration, death or members leaving the gang.
"You have to attack the organization, because the membership is fluid," Smith argued.
Smith also argued against the accusation that the injunction was overly broad.
"The injunction was narrowly drawn to give the county complete relief," he said.
Reymann also argued that it is unconstitutional to prohibit members from associating with one another, saying that there is nothing inherently criminal about being together in public.
Chase Aeschlimann, who has been served with the gang injunction, attended Tuesday's arguments. He testified during an evidentiary hearing last year that he was never part of the Ogden Trece gang, but did have "OX3" tattooed on his back when he was 12 out of fear, he testified, because his brother and friends may have been involved in the gang.
Both Aeschlimann and his brother have been served with the injunction, and he said he fears being in public on the off chance that another gang member could be in the same vicinity and he could get arrested. He said Tuesday outside of court that he is hoping for "justice" in this case, and that the injunction will be reversed.
"I'm not usually very optimistic," he said. "But I'm trying to stay positive."
Aeschlimann said he can't get off the gang list because in his understanding he would have to admit in court to being a gang member who is no longer involved in gang activities. He said that would be committing perjury, as he's never been a member.
If a documented Trece member is caught violating the injunction, they can be fined or could face jail time for the class B misdemeanor. Since it's a civil order, it requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal proceedings.
Smith told reporters outside of court Tuesday that while it has been discussed to extend the injunction to other Ogden gangs, they are holding off on pursuing additional injunctions until the Supreme Court rules on this matter.
The injunction is the first of its kind in Utah, and was formulated after similar actions in California. The high court took the matter under advisement, and a written ruling will be issued at a later date.