Monday night the news was startling. Alex Sanchez’s attorney Kerry Bensinger learned that US District Court Judge Manuel Real had been taken off the case.
Tom Hayden quickly wrote up the news for The Nation. Here is how his report opened:
The gang conspiracy case against Alex Sanchez was transferred to the jurisdiction of a new federal judge today after weeks of community protest alleging bias by Judge Manuel Real. The decision was rendered by a judicial status conference in a closed chamber December 2. Supporters of Alex Sanchez saw the ruling as a major change for the better.
After weeks of protests alleging judicial bias, the gang conspiracy case against Alex Sanchez was transferred to the jurisdiction of a new federal judge.
The new judge assigned to the case is Judge Christina Snyder, 61, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 on the recommendation of California senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Judge Snyder is a Pomona College alumna (1969) and a Stanford Law School graduate (1972). In an important recent decision, she ruled against California state Medicare cuts in 2008. Little is known about her approach to juvenile justice or police reform issues. She was in private practice for twenty-five years before her appointment to the federal bench.
Alex Sanchez supporters were thrilled.
Certainly the change in judges in no way suggested whether or not legal events would play out in Alex’s favor. But supporters felt it would mean a trial that would hopefully be fair—an outcome that many even outside the Sanchez camp had increasingly come to question should the proceedings stay in Judge Real’s courtroom.
The order to transfer the Sanchez case from Judge Real—which also contained a concurring signature of the new Judge, Christina Snyder, signed Dec. 2—- was filed on December 4, and then reportedly sent to Sanchez’ defense lawyer at 3:07 Monday afternoon.
Then a couple hours later on Tuesday afternoon…..everything changed.
Sanchez’s attorney received a new email, this time from the government prosecutor. Judge Real’s clerk said that Real wanted to keep the case and that Judge Snyder’s signature was “a mistake.”
Hayden sent around an email Tuesday night containing details and reactions. It read in part:
“The turn of events will raise new suspicions about alleged manipulation of the proceedings which began six months ago with Sanchez’ arrest on gang conspiracy charges. Sanchez, a well-known gang intervention worker who helped expose the Los Angeles police Rampart scandal a decade ago, asserts his innocence in the case. He is being held without bail at a federal prison in Los Angeles.
As of 4:30 Tuesday afternoon, no order reversing the transfer had been received by defense counsel, and no explanation offered for the unusual chain of events.
The order surprised and pleased the Sanchez defense team. His supporters, organized as www.wearealex.org, assert that Sanchez is being railroaded and denied any semblance of a fair trial. Sanchez’ court-appointed counsel, Kerry Bensinger, argued in a recent appeal to the Ninth Circuit that the case should be remanded to another judge.
Why the December 4 transfer order was withdrawn less than a day after it was made public will raise questions about the inner workings of the judiciary itself.
Uh, huh. Something like that.
Or to put it another way: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot???!!