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People v. Resendez

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

June 30, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
MICHAEL RESENDEZ, Defendant and Appellant.

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. KA110015, Mike Camacho, Judge. Affirmed.

          Rachel Varnell, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Shawn McGahey Webb and David A. Voet, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          GRIMES, J.


         Defendant Michael Resendez appeals following his jury conviction of (1) assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury with a gang enhancement and (2) assault with a deadly weapon. The jury also found true great bodily injury and prior prison enhancements. On appeal, defendant argues that under People v. Prunty (2015) 62 Cal.4th 59 (Prunty), the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence of predicate offenses to establish the existence of a criminal street gang under the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (the STEP Act, Pen. Code, § 186.20 et seq.).[1] We disagree.

         Prunty holds that “when the prosecution seeks to prove the street gang enhancement by showing a defendant committed a felony to benefit a given gang, but establishes the commission of the required predicate offenses with evidence of crimes committed by members of the gang's alleged subsets, it must prove a connection between the gang and the subsets.” (Prunty, supra, 62 Cal.4th at pp. 67-68.) In Prunty, there was no evidence of such a connection. Here, the evidence was ample. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.


         On February 7, 2015 in Baldwin Park, defendant attacked Eliseo A., who was traveling by bicycle from the grocery store toward home. Just before his assault on Mr. A., defendant rode his bicycle past Mr. A. and yelled, “East Side Bolen.” Mr. A. replied, “What did you say?” Defendant then got off his bike, and punched Mr. A. on the left eye and back of his head. Mr. A. hit defendant twice and then took him to the ground and held him there. While on the ground, defendant kicked Mr. A. in the head several times, bit his left wrist, and put his fingers in Mr. A.'s left eye. Mr. A. told defendant that he was not a gang member. During the struggle, defendant said things like: “This is my varrio, ” “Get this bitch off me, ” and “Homies come help me.”[2]

         Police arrived and arrested defendant. While he was being transported to the hospital, defendant stated to police: “I'll fuck that fool up. This is my varrio, East Side Bolen.” In prior contacts with the arresting officer, defendant had previously identified himself as an East Side Bolen gang member and, when asked, did not deny that his moniker was “Money Mike.”

         At trial, the victim and arresting officer testified to the events we have just described. In addition, the parties presented the following evidence.

         1. Detective Acuna

         Baldwin Park Police Detective Adam Acuna testified as an expert on criminal street gangs in Baldwin Park. He identified defendant as an East Side Bolen gang member from the Locos clique, based on prior consensual interactions Detective Acuna had had with defendant and on defendant's tattoos. The East Side Bolens had five cliques (smaller groups or subsets within the larger gang): the Locos, Rascals, Midgetcharros, Charros, and Dukes.

         Detective Acuna testified that southern Hispanic gang members “are very territorial and that's what they pride themselves on is respect and territory. Being territorial is what they... claim, what their neighborhood is, whatever they want to claim their boundaries and respect. It's what they have.” He elaborated that East Side Bolen gang members “challenge any outsider that was there and because that's their territory. If they are not familiar with you, you didn't grow up there, you are not from that neighborhood, they are going to question you.”

         Detective Acuna testified that four rival gangs claim territory within Baldwin Park. The four gangs are East Side Bolen (defendant's gang), North Side Bolen, Kings Have Arrived, and South Side Des Madre. The boundaries of the East Side Bolen territory are, from the north, Ramona Boulevard east of the 605 Freeway; to the east, to the border with West Covina; and to the south, to Puente Avenue. There are also some factions of East Side Bolen north of Ramona Boulevard, on Los Angeles Street, Merced and Walnut, all east of the 605 Freeway.

         Detective Acuna testified there are about 500 documented members of East Side Bolen (including all the cliques). This number includes those in custody, not in custody, and those who had moved out of Baldwin Park. Only a small group of about 20 members are dedicated and active, out of custody and still on the streets, and defendant was among this small group when he committed the assault in this case.

         Detective Acuna described East Side Bolen's primary criminal activities, and opined that the attack on a victim like Mr. A. was committed to benefit the gang as a whole by instilling fear of the gang members in the community. This fear was intended to facilitate the commission of future crimes by gang members with impunity.

         Detective Acuna also testified to the predicate felonies committed by Francisco Marin and Juan Ledezma, both of whom self-identify with the larger East Side Bolen gang in addition to the Rascals subset. Detective Acuna testified, “I have several contacts with Francisco Marin. He goes by Tiny by East Side Bolen Parque as well from the Rascals clique, which is another subset within East Side Bolen. He was convicted of possession of firearm where he fought and ran from officers during this incident.” Further, Detective Acuna testified, “Juan Ledezma is also an East Side Bolen Parque gang member from the Rascals clique, who goes by Sicko. He was also arrested and convicted with possession of a firearm. He participated with other East Side Bolen Parque gang members.”

         2. Additional Testimony

         In addition to the expert testimony of Detective Acuna, four other witnesses testified. Joshua Patino and Carmelo Placeres, incarcerated members of the East Side Bolen gang (who are members of the Rascals and Midgetcharros subsets, respectively), agreed to be removed from prison to testify as character witnesses for defendant. Ryan Felton and Jeffrey ...

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