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Gang Enhancement Vacated: Lack of Nexus

California v. Ramirez Docket: E074402 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: December 9, 2021. Defendants Jamie Ramirez and Albert Villa participated in a beating of another inmate while in custody at Southwest Detention Center. A jury convicted them of one count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. The jury also found true the allegation that defendants committed the assault “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with” a criminal street gang for purposes of the STEP Act gang enhancement. On appeal, defendants argued the record contained insufficient evidence to support their gang enhancements. During trial, the prosecution presented evidence that defendants and the inmate who orchestrated the assault each belonged to different Riverside County gangs before they were incarcerated but that they committed the assault for the benefit of the prison gang La Eme (also known as the Mexican Mafia). Despite this theory, the prosecution proved that the three Riverside County gangs satisfied the STEP Act’s definition of a “criminal street gang,” but didn’t present such proof for La Eme, the gang the assault was related to. Because the record contained no nexus between the assault and a proven gang, Court of Appeal concluded the enhancements could not stand. It therefore vacated that aspect of the jury’s verdict but otherwise affirmed the judgment. #gangenhancements #nonexus #stepact #prisongang


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