The spotlights of San Francisco and federal law enforcement shone brightly on the Mara Salvatrucha street gang Thursday.
In the morning, U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello summoned the media to the unsealing of a 52-count racketeering indictment against the gang. Not one to be left out of the party, District Attorney Kamala Harris announced gang-related murder and robbery charges against four defendants later in the evening. All of a sudden, the Mara Salvatrucha — commonly known as MS-13 — seems like a big deal for state and federal prosecutors.
But loyal Recorder readers probably knew that already.
Federal and state authorities seem to be helping each other out significantly on their MS-13 work. Many of cases against the 29 men charged in Thursday’s federal indictment stem from work done by the San Francisco Police Department, which turned numerous defendants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after their arrests. A significant number of the defendants also were indicted while facing charges in state court, and at least three were taken out of San Francisco county jail to face the feds.
But among all the allegations of MS-13 mayhem — murders, robberies, stabbings and shootings — there is one conspicuous hole: Edwin Ramos. Ramos, who is not mentioned in the federal indictment, sits in county jail facing three counts of homicide for the June 22 murders of S.F. resident Anthony Bologna and two of his sons.
State prosecutors have explicitly tied Ramos to MS-13, saying he’s part of the gang himself and that he committed the drive-by murders in retaliation for the wounding of MS-13 members earlier in the day. Prosecutors have also revealed that one of the defendants in the federal indictment, Douglas Largaespada, is the man who fingered Ramos for the killings in the first place. Ramos’ brother-in-law, Abraham Martinez, is also part of the federal MS-13 racketeering case.
Yet Ramos remains a state matter. At Thursday’s press conference, Russoniello was dodgy when asked why. He acknowledged that there might be “spillover” between federal and state efforts, but said his office likes to let cases that start in state jurisdiction stay there. Yet clearly Russoniello has no problem yanking those facing state charges into federal custody, as he did with many of those announced Thursday. Taking the mic, District Attorney Harris acknowledged that Ramos faces similar MS-13 allegations in his state case, yet said only that he “highlights the need“ for federal operations like those that led to Thursday’s indictment.
It makes us wonder, does the district attorney want to hold on to Ramos, or do the feds see something about his prosecution they don’t like? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
— Evan Hill