In the past three and a half years that I’ve reported on the Alex Sanchez federal murder conspiracy case, I have repeatedly linked to the ongoing write-ups on the case by Tom Diaz.
I did this because—as I’ve mentioned in every post pertaining to the case— Alex Sanchez is friend and, even though I have done my best to give an honest, rigorously factual account of the events of the case as they have unfolded, my reporting cannot help but be affected by the fact that I have always believed Alex to be innocent of the charges arrayed against him.
Tom Diaz, however, has pretty much held the opposite view to mine from the get go. So I linked to him as a countervailing voice, figuring that since I leaned so resolutely in the direction of the defense, he would present the prosecution’s POV—and do so from an informed perspective, due to his background in the law and his extensive contacts in the law enforcement community, both federal and local.
In case you’re not familiar with his name, Tom Diaz is an attorney, author, journalist (a former assistant managing editor at the conservative Washington Times), He is also the former lead Congressional counsel on counterterrorism and firearms, has written extensively on transnational gangs, Mara Salvatrucha—or MS13—among them, and on firearms (He is a former competitive shooter.) and he is now the Senior Policy Analyst for the Violence Prevention Center. AND he’s a occasional talking head on news shows whenever somebody with his expertise is required.
Diaz and I have discussed the case on several occasions, most often agreeing to disagree on some of the more salient points.
However, after the most recent news broke about the Feds dropping charges against Sanchez (all the while assuring everyone they intended to refile) Diaz read through any and all of the available legal material on all the matter (at least anything that wasn’t under some kind of seal), at the end of which time he evidently had a change of heart and mind.
Here are some clips from his post.
It will be four years in June since the United States government shocked the world and threw a legal fragmentation grenade into the home of Alex Sanchez. On June 24, 2009 Sanchez was arrested and charged under the federal racketeering law popularly known as RICO.
The essence of the federal charge was that Sanchez—an anti-gang activist whose prominence at the time cannot be exaggerated—was secretly continuing his membership in the huge and violent Latino gang, MS-13, a transnational racketeering organization. In plain words, Sanchez was accused in the indictment of plotting, as a boss or “shot caller,” to kill another gang member.
The government recently dropped the charges against Sanchez.
But the great, gray, anonymous and tight-lipped agglomerations of suits that is “the government” collectively muttered under its breath that it is going to “review” the evidence and likely will indict Sanchez again. They’ll be back. The prosecution asked the judge to let it take its embarrassingly shredded case back to a grand jury.
With the conspiracy to murder charge toasted like last week’s Cinnabon, perhaps the genius bar at the U.S. Attorney’s office can assign half of the federal agents in Southern California to follow Sanchez around and nail his ass on a charge of felonious crossing against a “don’t walk” sign.
Sanchez is due more than one apology, and I’ll start with mine.
I’ve followed this story for three years with a series of caustic and skeptical posts. The trouble is, I was skeptical about the wrong party. Although I have always been careful to note Alex Sanchez’s claim of innocence, looking back over past posts, it is clear that I had a grain, nay a fist-sized rock, of salt stuck in my throat.
My blind spot was that I simply could not believe that the government would indict a man as well known and, frankly, beloved as Alex Sanchez unless the government case was locked up tight. As I have written many times, you better be damned sure you’re right if you indict Mother Teresa. I also knew that the government has a barracks full of informants and “flipped” gangsters, so they must have had solid evidence against Sanchez.
I am sorry. I apologize to Alex Sanchez and to those who had faith in him. Because it now appears that the U.S. government, with all the power and resources available to it, screwed up in such a way that assistant U.S. Attorneys and some law enforcement agents ought to be fired, or at best reassigned to wear out their shoe leather on student loan collection work.
How could the federal government—with its awesome access to technology and expertise—get the single most important piece of evidence in the only meaningful charge against Sanchez wrong? Namely, the phone calls in which the operative facts were all about who was Talking to whom about killing whom?
You tell me. But they did. And now they grudgingly admit it.
The government’s expert witness, it turns out, completely misidentified a participant in the supposed plot to kill phone calls. And when the real participant surfaced, he blew up the government expert’s theory of the case.
After Sanchez’s new lawyer filed a motion to throw the case out, the U.S. Attorney’s office got some new lawyers on the case to reply and fess up…sort of….
All the basic documents in this courtly exchange are sealed. But one juicy little piece of sizzling meat somehow escaped the Czar’s censor. This is an extract from Alex Sanchez’s defense reply to the government’s request for a do-over:
The government has not filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss and has avoided addressing the factual arguments therein: that the government presented false evidence to the grand jury issuing the indictment; that a government prosecutor lied to the grand jury in subsequent proceedings; that the government failed, for more than three (3) years, to take any action to formally acknowledge or attempt to correct an indictment based on false evidence; and that government prosecutors withheld from Mr. Sanchez favorable and exculpatory evidence.
(There’s a lot I’m leaving out, so read the whole thing.)
When I spoke to Tom on the phone Sunday afternoon, he reiterated that he found the case very disturbing. He was bothered for example that, after the central elements of their case had blown up, the feds continued to “hide behind a forest of sealed files.”
“You want to think that prosecutors are seeking justice with a case, not career advancement,” Diaz said.
With Sanchez’ case he said he was no longer at all sure, and was beginning suspect instead “a massive miscarriage of justice.”
More to come after Sanchez’s hearing later this month.