Prosecutor Noah Phillips laid out the case against three alleged members of an Oak Park gang implicated in at least one homicide, several shootings and a nightclub disturbance last summer that sent patrons running in fear from Cafe New Orleans in Old Sacramento.All three defendants were held to answer by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner after the preliminary hearing. Each faces lengthy prison time if found guilty. The case is one of 98 the Target Team has put together since January 2007. It has taken aim at 64 alleged gang members and 42 parolees. More than half the cases have been resolved by pleas or trials, Sacramento County prosecutors said, to the disfavor of defendants who have been socked with average prison terms of six years."It's not uncommon to find gang members rolling around with loaded firearms," said Phillips, the Sacramento County deputy district attorney who heads the Target Team. "That is something that we see commonly and something we're trying to address proactively. The theory is, the only reason you have a gun is that you plan to use it."Wednesday's case involved Quentin Frank Carthen Jr., 27; Deon Edward Hampton, 21; and Mack Henry Williams III, 20. Each faces gang association charges.
Prosecutors filed two gun counts against Hampton; cocaine transportation against Carthen; and felony evasion against suspected wheelman Williams.The three were driving at 2:30 a.m. Sept. 21 on East Parkway when sheriff's Deputy Lizardo Guzman saw them make an illegal U-turn, he testified Wednesday.When he got behind them on Florin Road, they turned onto Stockton Boulevard, Guzman testified, and sped up to 55 mph.Williams then turned too sharply on 66th Avenue and crashed into a curb.According to testimony, Hampton crawled out the passenger-side window and fell to the ground, dropping a pistol. Deputies chased him down in a nearby apartment building. They took Williams and Carthen into custody without incident, other than the discovery of cocaine on Carthen.Under most circumstances, the charges would have been terribly serious for any of the defendants. But according to court records, Carthen had just been paroled on a drug conviction; Hampton was on probation for gun possession; and Williams was out on bail, awaiting sentencing on drug and gun convictions.Plus, Phillips said, all three were "validated" members of the Oak Park gang called Ridezilla, a subset of the Oak Park Bloods that started out as a rap group but has since picked up the gun. Ridezilla, authorities say, formed about 2001 and has crossover links to other Oak Park subsets, including the Fourth Avenue Bloods, whose members have been accused, convicted or killed in three recent high-profile murder cases.Another alleged Ridezilla member, Denishio Demmetrius Collins, 26, is about to go on trial in Sacramento Superior Court on a murder charge in the accidental shooting of a member of the gang while they allegedly were out on a revenge shooting.In putting the complaint together against Wednesday's three defendants, Phillips sought to establish that their crimes were all carried out for the benefit of Ridezilla.At the center of the case, and what established it as a "target" prosecution, was the presence of the gun.Sheriff's Detective Nick Goncalves testified as an expert Wednesday that there's no better way to establish standing on the street than possession of a firearm."The ultimate thing in gangs is respect – each one of them is a walking ambassador to their gang," Goncalves testified. "And having a gun is the utmost in respect."After the hearing, defense lawyers disagreed with the District Attorney's Office "target" approach that could give Hampton and Carthen up to nine years, eight months in prison and Williams a maximum sentence of six years."I think it's kind of overbroad," said Roosevelt O'Neal, who represents Hampton. "It's just sweeping people off the street, putting people away for a long time. In a normal case, if you're carrying a gun, it's sometimes a misdemeanor.""Let's try the case on the facts, not somebody's speculation," said Williams' attorney, Arturo Reyes.Phillips said "target" prosecutions are here to stay."You want to chip away at the gangs," he said. "You start pulling them out of the mix, and then the gang mentality will go away."
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