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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Expert tells court alleged killer of Yolo deputy has Norteno ties

13:10 |


gang expert said during testimony Thursday that Marco Topete was a Norteno gang member the night of Tony Diaz's murder. Yolo County Sheriff's Deputy Diaz, 37, was murdered June 15, 2008 on County Road 5 in Dunnigan, allegedly by the now 39-year-old Topete. Topete has been charged with murder with multiple enhancements and could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted. At least two of the enhancements are related to gang activity. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. Cpl. Ron Cordova was a gang investigator for the Woodland Police Department from 2005 to 2010. A key point of his testimony was that when a gang member murders a law enforcement officer, his respect within the gang grows. "The killing of a law enforcement officer is a multidimensional benefit," Cordova said. Through killing a police officer, this person will be "put on a pedestal by his group," he added. The group will also benefit from the killing since Cordova said the gang will be feared. Cordova spoke with other gang investigators about what it means for a gang if a member kills a law enforcement officer and they agreed that it would bring respect. He also talked to three previous Norteno members about the significance of a law enforcement officer's murder. Two of the three said the gang member would be embraced while a third said the murderer would be "marked for death." However, Cordova added the one who disagreed was a "fledgling" in the gang ADVERTISEMENT subculture while the others had decades of leadership experience in the Nortenos. During cross-examination, Topete's defense counsel Hayes Gable III asked whether a gang member who had a child in the car, as the shooter did when Diaz was shot, would affect his standing in a gang as gangs tend to frown upon crimes involving children. Topete faces a charge for child endangerment as well. Cordova said it wouldn't be a factor. Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton asked during redirect examination how Cordova knew this but Gable asked to speak to the witness without the jury present. Cordova then told the judge, prosecution and defense counsel that phone calls, recordings and letters had Topete asking for "someone to stand up for him" even with the circumstances of a child being involved. Cordova added it appeared Topete was in good standing as recently as 2010 when he was found at the Sacramento County Jail with "kites," strips of paper that detailed Norteno history. If he had not been in good standing, Cordova said Topete "wouldn't be allowed to possess that." Judge Paul Richardson ruled Cordova would come back next week to continue his testimony in front of the jury. Next week could also bring rulings on whether prosecutors can present DNA evidence from the murder weapon, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. Prosecutors plan to complete their case Wednesday. In addition, prosecutors filed three separate motions to limit or exclude mental health experts' testimony during the defense counsel's case, which is scheduled to begin within two weeks. District Attorney Jeff Reisig said in the motions the mental health information wasn't relevant to the guilt phase, which is where the trial stands now.

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