OGDEN -- This week's trial of the Ogden Trece injunction has included numerous references to a possible federal racketeering case against the Treces, the city's oldest and likely largest street gang.
Several Treces brought in shackles from the Utah State Prison to testify this week were advised of their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in the face of potential prosecution.
Though the Treces were subpoenaed and transported from the prison at the request of prosecutors, it was defense attorney Randy Richards who stood to ask that they be advised of their rights.
"By admitting he's in a gang, he could be in hot water with any federal RICO investigation," Richards told 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith advised the judge the inmate was testifying with immunity, meaning his statements in court could not become grounds for prosecution.
"The question is, does he have the authority to bind the entire state of Utah and the federal government?" Richards continued.
The inmate testimony was confined to each identifying pictures of himself and his tattoos entered into the record for the trial, so Jones allowed the questions to continue without getting lawyers for each inmate, as suggested by the defense.
But Richards persisted with each inmate, to the point that Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles advised the judge the immunity would also extend to federal prosecution.
"He can't say that," Richards said, again arguing the immunity the prosecutors were referring to might not be binding on other agencies. But Jones noted the inmates' testimony remained confined to their photos and tattoos, and let the questions continue.
Miles is cross-deputized as an assistant U.S. attorney for Utah and works regularly with federal prosecutors.
On Monday, Ogden police Sgt. Steve Zaccardi testified to when he was assigned to the Ogden Metro Gang Unit five and six years ago.
"We tried to do a federal RICO case on Treces," he said. But some legal snags were encountered regarding the number of required offenses that could be tied to each member, Zaccardi testified.
A case was forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Salt Lake City, he said from the stand, but in 2007 federal prosecutors declined to take the case to a grand jury, citing the technical problems and a lack of manpower in the office.
After Tuesday's court session neither Miles nor Smith would expand on the in-court references. They confined their remarks to simple variations of "no comment" when asked if any federal indictment of Treces was coming, under RICO or any other statute.
Richards and Mike Studebaker, another Trece lawyer, said afterward they were not aware of any current RICO investigation or any federal investigation against any Treces.
"But it's not the type of thing they are going to advise defense attorneys about," Richards said.
RICO refers to federal racketeering laws first used against Mafia figures in the 1970s, now generally applied to any continuing criminal enterprise or pattern of criminal behavior. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.
"We can't comment on what may or may not have been screened with our office, sorry," said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Utah, when asked of any pending or past federal investigation of Ogden Treces.
In response to the same query, Debbie Dujanovic Bertram, Utah FBI public information officer, said, "I don't confirm or deny investigations and also, I do not comment on testimony given at a hearing or trial."
The trial reconvenes today to determine if the injunction cracking down on Trece activities becomes a permanent injunction.