Arresting Alex Sanchez Courts Crime and Punishment Criminal Justice FBI

Alex Sanchez – Part 8: Back to Square One….Sort Of



Alex Sanchez, the gang intervention leader and Homies Unidos founder who was indicted last June on federal Rico charges, is going back to court at 10 a.m. on Wednesday January 6 for another bail hearing.

It will be his third.

Most criminal cases feature a single bail hearing. From the beginning, however, Alex Sanchez’s situation hasn’t been “most cases.”

(For the back story on the arrest of Alex Sanchez start here and read from the bottom up.)

The hearing will take place in the same federal courtroom with the same federal jurist who presided over the last hearing—namely US District Court Judge Manuel Real.

The new hearing was ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, an action that was viewed as both good news and bad news by Sanchez’s supporters and his court-appointed defense attorney, Kerry Bensinger. Good news because there is to be a new hearing at all after Sanchez was denied bail twice in a row. Bad news because the hearing is back with Judge Real, who is the guy who was the most recent and vociferous denier.

In late November, Sanchez attorney Bensinger filed a brief with the 9th Circuit in an effort to get a new hearing by a new judge, contending that with Real his client did not receive anything resembling a legally proper hearing and that Sanchez would be unlikely to receive a fair trial with the controversial judge either.

The government prosecutors subsequently countered with their own brief and everyone waited to see what the 9th-ers would say.

On December 22, the appeals court delivered its ruling. The 9th Circuit panel told Real he would need to set up a new hearing and, delivering a slight whack to the judge’s metaphorical hands, the panel set down some requirements. As Tom Hayden notes, Real was to “accept and consider” evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Sanchez would be a danger to the community if released on bail. He was also to consider the “preponderance of evidence” in deciding whether Sanchez would be a flight risk.

In other words, the 9th Circuit kinda sorta conceded that Real did not do the swellest of jobs with the last hearing, but they were not willing to go so far as to take him off the case.

“I think part of the problem is that, off the bench, everyone likes Judge Real. Off the bench, he’s very charming,” said LA criminal defense attorney Harland Braun when we talked about the matter a few weeks ago. But on the bench, Real is considered by many, Braun among them, to be an irrational tyrant who actively skews proceedings toward whichever side he believes should prevail. “He does things like make faces at the jury during testimony, and signal to the prosecutor when to object. It’s a totally unnatural situation.” (Braun has been up against Real many times over the years and is among those who have been vocal about their opinion that the judge, who will be 86 later this month, should retire, or at the very least, step down to part-time “senior” status, for which he has been eligible since 1985.)

“But really, I blame the 9th Circuit,” said Braun. “They know what’s going on. But they don’t have the guts to do anything about it.”

Whatever the case, Sanchez supporters don’t seem to hold out lots of hope that Judge Real will reverse himself and grant bail. Yet there is much interest as to whether, in order to placate the 9th Circuit, the judge will allow some of the testimony and lines of questioning that he excluded last time Sanchez was in his courtroom.


To make matters even more perplexing, for a while it looked as if Judge Real was indeed going to be off the case, but not because of the doings of the 9th Circuit.

During the time when Sanchez and company were waiting for the 9th to make up its mind, an odd thing happened: Bensinger unexpectedly received notice on December 9 that Real had been taken off the case and it had been assigned to a new jurist, a Judge Christina Snyder. The order was signed by Judge Snyder on December 2, officially filed two days later.

Sanchez supporters were ecstatic at the news, but Bensinger was also surprised because the only request he had made was through the Court of Appeals, and that was still pending.

Eventually it was learned that an attorney for one of the other 18 defendants named in the federal Rico case of which Sanchez was a part had filed a request for a transfer to Judge Snyder. The attorney applied for the judge swap under a legal protocol known as a “low number request.” It seems this other defendant had been tried in front of Snyder in a nearly identical case in 2006, thus could conceivably qualify for the oddly named low number request (which in state court is called, much more sensibly, a “notice of related case”)—the idea being that a judge who has already tried a defendant for a nearly identical offense has less of a learning curve so therefor can more easily speed things along.

But since this was a RICO case with a zillion other defendants all legally joined at the hip, a transfer of one case meant a transfer of all. Judge Snyder could say yes or no to the request, depending upon her schedule and her take on the matter. It appeared that on December 2, Judge Christina Snyder said yes –and signed the order.

But a few hours after receiving notification of the transfer, Bensinger got a call from the federal prosecutors who said they had talked to Judge Real’s clerk, that Judge Snyder’s signing of the order had been a big silly mistake, and that Real wanted the case back, thank you very much.

Since Bensinger had gotten no official notice of the second judicial switcheroo, he didn’t know what to think. But, a day or two later still, Bensinger did indeed get yet another order, this one signed by Judge Gary Allen Feess, the Chair of the Case Assignment and Management Committee.

(If Judge Feess’s name sounds familiar, he was the fellow who oversaw the LAPD’s Federal Consent decree.)

Feess wrote that United States District Judge Christina Snyder had “inadvertently signed a transfer order…” (How one “inadvertently” signs a transfer order is unclear. But okay.) However, wrote Feess, “…the current case is at such an advanced stage and Judge Real has spent such substantial time and effort on the matter that no judicial economy would be achieved by a transfer at this late date.” The transfer order was thus VACATED (Judge Feess’s caps, not mine) and “…the matter is ORDERED to be returned to Judge Real’s calendar for all further proceedings.”

And so it was.

Onward to January 6.

NOTE: FOR A LESS SANCHEZ-FRIENDLY but always exceptionally informative view of some of these same matters, be sure to check Tom Diaz’s post at Fairly Civil.


Without knowing lots more about the case, I don’t have a strong personal opinion on this man’s guilt or innocence, but whatever your view, the issue—which was written up in the LA Times on Sunday by Carol Williams—-makes for troubling reading.


  • Not that it matters, but I consider that an uncivil comment

    You’re right–it doesn’t matter. Because it’s Celeste’s blog, not yours, and therefore only el machete deems what’s civil or not.

    I quite like her decision. Happy 2010, Celeste!

  • When you have 11 federal judges joining those questioning Cooper’s guilt, it certainly makes one wonder who he was chosen to be among the handful of 697 prisoners on death row definitely cleared for execution.

    I’d seen this on Sunday and doing another quick reading, it seems odd that there was only one drop of blood at the scene and some blood on a shoeprint, despite its gory nature — it seems to corroborate the statement of a woman called Roper, who says that her boyfriend, a contract killer, had done the job because, as a Sheriff’s Deputy said, he mistook the house for the one next-door. A pro would know how to lay out sheets etc. in anticipation, to prevent or severely limit blood evidence on the scene.

    Roper said she saw her boyfriend in a gruesomely spattered t-shirt, the one she’d given him new the day before, there’s other mention of bloody clothing and evidence (with the jeans the killer wore being somehow destroyed by the cops before they could be tested!). The prosecution dismissed Roper’s testimony as that of “a scorned woman,” can it get any more sexist and unprofessional than that?

    It does seem that because Cooper was such an unsavory character, an escaped mental patient with convictions for rape and assault as well as burglary, when he was caught with implements that could have been used in the crime, he was an easy mark. (And subliminally, “who cares” because if he didn’t commit this crime, he might have, he’s hardly a benefit to society, etc., might have been a factor.) Still, being a mental patient, he wouldn’t likely have had the forethought and impulse control to PLAN to lay down the sheets and change into fresh clothing, etc.

    This is truly unfortunate because it casts into question the whole system of capitol punishment again.

  • SBL, Yeah, all agreed. I read further into it yesterday and continue to be very troubled. The fact that any of the blood was contaminated with a preservative is odd to say the least. And the prison issue, roll your own cigarette butts found in the victim’s car in Long Beach (which matched what Cooper left in the place where he did admittedly hide out), were not mentioned in the initial report on the car when it was first recovered, but only turned up in later reports. Ditto the ax-handle cover.

    Cooper wasn’t someone whom one would likely want one’s daughter dating. Yet I’m one of those old fashioned people who think that factual guilt or innocence matters. Particularly when it comes to the death penalty.

    Cases such as Cooper’s are deeply, deeply upsetting.

  • The death penalty will likely come to the fore during the upcoming race for state Atty General, if it ends up being between Kamala Harris who’s opposed to it (says she’s continuing in footsteps of Jerry Brown on this issue) — I’m not sure how Delgadillo feels — and rightwinger Steve Cooley. (Who’s using the Roman Polanski case to shore up his name ID statewide, as well as gambling that his war on all sales of medical marijuana will pay off for him.) Cooley will likely get the support of the newly joined unions of the PPL and L A County Sheriff’s deputies, as announced by Don Novey their political advisor. (Whose contract with the state prison guard’s union was terminated with a year to go at a hefty consulting fee, wonder what’s really behind all these goings-on.) Harris will have the support of the likes of S. F. Chief Gascon and others known as part of the world of “enlightened policing.” It will be a definite case of polar opposites on many issues.

  • Mavis, please don’t consider a left-wing NYT reporting that an action, or lack of action, by an organization run by left-wing professors represents an important death penalty surrender. Every organization that isn’t specifically conservative eventually gets taken over by liberals…and ruined.

    “The A.L.I. is important on a lot of topics,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “They were absolutely singular on this topic” — capital punishment — “because they were the only intellectually respectable support for the death penalty system in the United States.”

    Bull. Somebody’s arguing for the death penalty or liberals would have ended it by now. Notable supporters are voters, and the governors take note. The ALI wasn’t the “only intellectual respectable” group that studied and/or supported the death penalty. (Typical pompous professor.)

    This study is two years old, but I think it is substantially an accurate presentation of views today.
    An Enduring Majority: Americans Continue to Support the Death Penalty

    Unlike Mike Dukakis, I would have wanted to sloooowly fry any criminal who attacked my wife.

    I’ll tell you one other group that hasn’t given up the death penalty, and that’s Islam. At the drop of a hat, they’ll hang you for homosexuality, for adultery, for rejecting the faith…. And, they usually don’t wait for twenty years of appeals, as in many cases such as a father killing his daughter in an “honor killing.”

    I don’t like the death penalty, but I wouldn’t oppose it in every case. Some scum don’t deserve to live.

  • Nobody should be troubled about Cooper, he’s guilty and should fry. A little more on the case and this walking piece of evil at the link below. The Times story leaves out a few things but what else could you expect from them?

    Notice how the writer mentions he was arrested while authorities were investigating a rape on a nearby vessel, but doesn’t mention Cooper was the one who committed the rape? So he gets on a boat close by but didn’t enter the Ryen home yards from where he was held up?

    SBL, having worked as a psych counselor in a locked down facility I can assure you that many of them could and would have acted in the same manner Cooper did the night of the killings. Not all, but Cooper’s record shows he was a smart nut and a savage killer.

    The writer of the article, like the Times, have an agenda and not seeing people executed is certainly a part of it. They, as will certain people who live on the left side of the universe and really have no clue about just how ferocious a person can be, will do what they can to cast doubt in even the strongest of cases.

    The article is journalism with no objectivity, just an agenda.

  • Thanks for the link SF. I too read that article last night and it is the one that made clear to me that I didn’t know enough to have a clear feeling one way or the other.

    On the other hand, there are some huge discrepancies with regard to the evidence which strongly suggests part of it may have been falsified or misrepresented. The dissenting supremes seemed to think so too.,1066355.shtml

    At this point, I’ve read about six different stories on the matter and, frankly, I have yet to read a single article that seems to have covered this thoroughly enough for my taste. I agree that the LA Times piece did not.

  • I’m with serious book lover in finding the 11 federal judge’s stance particularly noteworthy. Maybe I’m wrong, but that strikes me as very unusual.

    The Times article identifies Cooper as “wanted in the rape and kidnapping of a teenage girl.”

  • It does indeed Mavis.

    A day after the murders, authorities learned of Cooper’s prison escape and that he wasn’t just a burglar. He had fled a Pennsylvania psychiatric facility and was wanted in the rape and kidnapping of a teenage girl. Dist. Atty. Dennis Kottmeier filed murder charges against Cooper four days after the killings.

    That was a rape and escape the CDC wasn’t aware of when he was locked down at a lesser level of security than he should have been when first incarcerated at Chino. This rape and escape happened prior to his getting to Chino Mavis.

    The rape on the ship happened after his escape from Chino, after his murdere spree, and as I said “the writer mentions he was arrested while authorities were investigating a rape on a nearby vessel, but doesn’t mention Cooper was the one who committed the rape”.

    Mr. Cooper is a guy that was very busy prior to ever landing at Chino and should have been fried long ago.

    I posted a link, in fact I’m a nut about posting links now.

  • Besides the “fro”, check the deputy with weapon at the ready in the background. Could’ve saved the State a heap of money right then and there.

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