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Friday, 11 March 2011

the "general" behind the confrontation between members of the three gangs - including allies BOE 23 and La Onda and their foes SUR 13

08:51 |

Gang members understand what being disrespected by rivals requires.

You have to comeback when "they try you," one man explained.

"If you lived the gang lifestyle you'd know this," said Wilson Almendares.

Almendares, an admitted member of the street gang called La Onda, testified Thursday in Hall County Superior Court where Fernando Acosta and Juan Pablo Hurtado are facing charges of fighting as part of a criminal street gang.

The witness shed light on the rival mind set that fueled the June 13 confrontation at Lenox Park Apartments last year. Daniel Adame was killed and Acosta seriously injured after being struck by a vehicle during the fight.

Of the nine people charged in connection with the gang fight, only Juan Villanueva is accused in Adame's death.

His case is scheduled to go to trial next month, also before Superior Court Judge Jason J. Deal.

What Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance mainly questioned Almendares about were the events leading up to and including the physical battle.

He said a car followed him as he drove alone on two different occasions the day before and hours before the violent 5 a.m. meeting at the apartment complex.

Almendares could not see the other people in the car behind him, yet sensed they were testing his resolve, he said.

"I am thinking they want to fight. At the time, I don't know who it is. I'm angry," Almendares said.

"Are you ready to fight if it comes to that?" Vance asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

He called one person in particular for support. Eliborio Andrade, known by the street name Bone Crusher, agreed.

"Do you have my back if anything goes down?" Almendares said he asked him.

"For backup?" Vance asked.

"Well, yeah, just in case there was a fight," he said.
Almendares said his group canvassed the area near where he'd been followed in hopes of another meeting with the car and its occupants.

They'd given up, he said, and were intent on settling a separate feud when the gangs finally met in the complex parking lot.

Almendares described how men with each side were "throwing up signs" at each other, unique hand gestures that symbolize gangs and are viewed as insults to rivals.

Hurtado was among those throwing signs, the witness said.

Almendares was struck with a bottle that sliced the side of his face and jaw, and he witnessed a foe, Adame, falling to the ground after being struck from behind.

"Did you see what started the fight?"

"Me getting hit by a beer bottle," Almendares said.

Though he testified for the prosecution, his answers were considered key for defense lawyers as well.

Hurtado's lawyer Jerry C. Carter Jr. had billed Almendares in opening statements as the "general" behind the confrontation between members of the three gangs - including allies BOE 23 and La Onda and their foes SUR 13, which Acosta and Hurtado are accused of being a part of.

Carter pressed Almendares on who started the fight, playing for him a taped interview of his statements that conflicted with his testimony. Defense lawyers contend that Adame - a friend of Acosta and Hurtado - was hit first, which prompted the men's reaction to intervene.

Carter and Acosta's lawyer Arturo Corso pressed Almendares' credibility most of all.

At the time of the June 2010 fight, Almendares was on a bond stemming from an aggravated assault charge in 2009.

He said he agreed to be a police informant in exchange for his prison release.

In October, Almendares pleaded guilty to both aggravated assault in the 2009 case and the gang and fight charges stemming from the incident last June.

He received a 20-year sentence to serve four years and promised to testify truthfully against other defendants, according to court documents.

But Corso didn't stop there.

"Have you received anything else as a result of your being an informant?" Corso asked.

"My papers," Almendares said.

Corso asked him to clarify what, if anything, of "value" he received after his bond in 2009.

"I got my (work) permit to stay in the U.S.," Almendares said.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today.

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