It is not a crime to be a member of a recognized criminal street gang or organized criminal organization. It is only a crime if a member and/or associate of the gang or criminal organization commits a crime “at the direction of, for the benefit of or in association with [the gang].” The government’s broad interpretation of the aforementioned language has resulted in countless people being unfairly labeled as a gang member and resulted in Draconian prison sentences for those who pled guilty or are found guilty by a jury of violating the current gang laws.
Virtually every police agency and district attorney’s office has specialized “gang units” which are solely dedicated to “identifying” potential gang members and/or associates, arresting alleged gang members and prosecuting alleged gang members and/or associates. Sean Hennessey is well known within the police and prosecutors “gang” units because of his well established understanding of the current gang laws and his ability to educate judges and juries on what legally does or does not constitute a gang crime.
Sean Hennessey has defended 100’s of people charged with gang related allegations. Sean Hennessey has defended clients accused of being members and/or associates of the Aryan Brotherhood, Public Enemy Number 1 (“PENI”), the Mexican Mafia, Asian Boys, Bloods, Crips, 18th Street, M-13, Tiny Rascals Gang (“TRG”) and numerous other alleged gangs or organized criminal organizations.
On a daily basis police are violating the constitutional rights of many ordinary citizens in their over zealous pursuit to label people as gang members and/or associates. A persons nationality, color, hair style, manner of dress and wearing certain colored clothing can bring the unwanted attention of law enforcement officers.
The police routinely harass minorities and others who match a certain “gang member profile” which has been created by police agencies and prosecuting agencies over the years. Many of those harassed are minors as young as 10 years old who are unlawfully detained, searched, questioned and often photographed and unknowingly placed in “gang books” and entered into national “gang” data banks as “identified” gang members and/or associates.
The fact that many of those illegally detained, questioned and photographed have nothing to do with gangs and/or gang activity rarely matters to the police who enter these people into gang books and enter their names and information in national “gang” data basis. Sean Hennessey has represented many of these children and adults to have them removed from gang books and gang computer databases in order to get into college, enter the armed forces and obtain certain jobs.
Police agencies and prosecuting agencies have an economic incentive to identify and prosecute people as gang members and/or associates. Both the state and federal government provides money to police and prosecuting agencies involved in “fighting” the war on gangs. Therefore, the more people the police can “identify” as gang members and/or associates and the more cases filed by prosecuting agencies as “gang crimes” brings in more state and federal money to the police and prosecuting agencies.
Gang crimes are charged in two (2) different ways:
- A Count adding a violation of Penal Code section 186.22 (b) (a “strike” felony which carries a 16 month, 2 year or 3 year prison sentence); or
- “Gang enhancements” which are sentencing enhancements added by prosecutors to virtually any crime no matter how minor including trespassing, vandalism, disturbing the peace and petty theft. The effect of a gang enhancement conviction attached to even a minor crime will result in a strike felony and a likely state prison sentence if the person charged either pleads guilty or a jury finds the person guilty of the crime and enhancement.
Gang enhancements added to serious felony crimes such as murder, attempted murder, robbery, assaults with a deadly weapon, sex crimes will often result in mandatory life sentences in state prison if the person is found guilty of the crime and gang enhancement.
Prosecutors often tactically charge gang crimes and/or gang enhancements because they know the increased sentencing range can pressure many people to plead guilty to crimes the prosecutor could not otherwise prove. Prosecutors know a person fearing a sentence increases of 10 years, 20 years or a life time sentence if they proceed to trial could result in a person pleading guilty to a questionable charge in order to avoid a longer sentence if they proceed to a jury trial.
If a “gang case” proceeds to a jury trial prosecutors will usually try to scare a jury into convicting someone of a gang crime by calling gang “experts” who are often granted by Judges virtual unlimited abilities to render opinions based upon little or no supporting evidence. Sean Hennessey has represented alleged gang members charged with crimes such as petty theft or trespass where Judges have allowed the “gang expert” to tell the jury about murders, violent robberies and assaults notwithstanding the person on trial has no connection, in any way, to the crimes the “gang expert” was allowed to tell jurors about.
The District Attorney’s Offices have been trained to rely upon “gang experts” to make their questionable gang cases. The California District Attorneys Association has published articles telling to District Attorneys to file cases that rely upon “gang experts” because the “experts” will win the case for the prosecutor. (Pawloski & Brown, S.T.E.P. on Gangs in Prosecutor’s Brief Vol. XX, No. 3 p. 46.)
Sean Hennessey has been involved in 100‘s of gang cases and cross examined numerous “gang experts”; often spending days dissecting the foundation upon which their opinions are based. To date Sean Hennessey has never lost a gang enhancement attached to a minor crime and has won virtually every gang case he has tried in front of a jury.
Sean Hennessey is well known to gang prosecutors and gang police. They know Sean Hennessey has represented 100‘s of people charged with gang crimes, stays current with the evolving field of law covering gang charges, has studied gang culture, reads countless books and articles concerning gang laws and gang crimes. Further, because Sean Hennessey has successfully cross examined so many police “gang experts” Sean Hennessey is able to obtain more favorable resolutions for his clients than other less well known or less experienced attorneys. Sean Hennessey has educated numerous juries on what truly constitutes a gang crime and has obtained dismissals and acquittals in numerous serious gang cases.
If you, your family or loved one is being investigated or arrested for a gang related charge you need to contact Sean Hennessey IMMEDIATELY at (949) 280-1257.
Below are just a few of the successes Sean Hennessey has had defending his clients against gang charges and gang enhancements:
- Admitted gang member charged with 4 counts of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and gang crimes. Sean’s client was identified by 2 eyewitnesses as being one of four shooters who opened fire on 4 rival gang members. Sean defended the client by proving the eyewitness testimony was unreasonable and also presented evidence Sean’s client had an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the shooting.RESULT: FOUND NOT GUILTY OF ALL CRIMES BY A JURY;
- Admitted gang member charged with brandishing a gun at a rival gang rival, possession of a gun by a convicted gang member and a gang crime. Sean defended the client by proving the rival gang member was lying about the entire incident.RESULT: FOUND NOT GUILTY OF ALL CHARGES BY A JURY;
- Admitted gang member charged with possession of a gun. Police testify he saw client with a gun in his hand. Sean defended the client proving the officer’s observations were false and no gun was ever found. RESULT: FOUND NOT GUILTY BY A JURY IN LESS THAN AN HOUR.
- 5 people captured inside a house during a violent take over home invasion robbery. All 5 charged with armed home invasion robbery and gang crimes. All faced mandatory life in prison based upon gang charges. Before trial 3 defendants pled guilty to 24 years in prison. Another defendant went to a jury trial was convicted of all charges and was sentenced to life in prison. RESULT: SEAN HENNESSEY’S CLIENT WENT TO A JURY TRIAL AND WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF ALL GANG CRIMES.
- Sean’s client and 2 others charged with armed robbery, kidnapping and gang charges. All kidnapping and gang charges were dismissed after the Preliminary Hearing. Sean Hennessey’s client was charged with being the gun man during the crime. Three eyewitnesses said they saw Sean’s client with a gun in his hand. If client had been convicted of being the gun man he would have received a minimum of 12 years or a maximum of 15 years. Sean’s defense was there was no real gun and the client used a pellet gun. The client testified he used a pellet gun during the crime.RESULT: THE JURY HUNG 11-1 IN FAVOR OF FINDING SEAN’S CLIENT DID NOT HAVE A GUN. THE JUDGE THEN DISMISSED THE GUN CHARGE AGAINST SEAN’S CLIENT.
- Sean’s client and another defendant, both admitted gang members, were charged with attempted murder and gang crimes. The prosecutor alleged Sean’s client and the other defendant went over to execute a rival drug dealer. The co-defendant shot the victim in the leg and told Sean’s client to “finish him off” Sean’s client then allegedly shot the victim 5 times. The victim lived and identified Sean’s client and the co-defendant. Sean proved this was not a gang crime and if the case went to trial Sean may win the case because of a questionable identification of Sean’s client. RESULT:BEFORE TRIAL SEAN’S CLIENT PLED TO FELONY ASSAULT. HAD HE GONE TO TRIAL AND LOST HE WOULD HAVE RECEIVED 5 CONSECUTIVE LIFE SENTENCES.
- Sean’s client and another admitted gang member charged with armed robbery with a gun. Sean’s client had a strike prior for a gang related attempted murder. Sean successfully explained to the DA that the identification evidence against Sean’s client was highly questionable. RESULT: THE DAY BEFORE TRIAL THE CASE AGAINST SEAN’S CASE WAS DISMISSED. THE CO-DEFENDANT WAS SENT TO PRISON.
- Sean’s client, an admitted gang member, was stopped on 2 separate occasions by 2 separate law enforcement agencies. During one stop he was found to be in possession of a gun. During the second stop he was found to be in possession of a knife. The client was charged with separate charges of being a gang member in possession of a weapon with gang enhancements. RESULT: BOTH CASES WERE DISMISSSED AS A RESULT OF SEAN FILING A MOTION ALLEGING BOTH STOPS WERE ILLEGAL. THE COURT FOUND BOTH STOPS AND SEARCHES WERE ILLEGAL AND DISMISSED BOTH CASES.
- Sean’s client, an admitted gang member , was trying to break into a car. An eyewitness confronted him and the client allegedly brandished a gun at the witness. The client was charged with robbery with a gun and gang enhancements. Sean argued his client did not commit the crime to benefit any gang but rather to support a heroin habit. RESULT: THE GUN ALLEGATION WAS FOUND TO NOT BE TRUE AND THE GANG ENHANCEMENTS WERE FOUND NOT TO BE TRUE.