OGDEN -- The Ogden Trece injunction either preserves the American way of life or eats away at its foundations, lawyers said as the trial of the experimental crime-fighting tool closed Thursday.
"There is no First Amendment protection provided for groups whose sole purpose is criminal activity," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said in closing arguments.
An approach in common use in California but not in other states, the injunction is the first attempted in Utah. It bans Ogden Trece gang members from associating with each other in public, being in the vicinity of guns, drugs and alcohol, and from being out past 11 p.m.
Smith pointed to statistics showing dramatic crime decreases among the 37 anti-gang injunctions in use in Los Angeles County.
In his closing remarks, defense attorney Randy Richards, ironically Smith's former law partner, said, "Our task is to carry the torch of liberty, which is barely flickering in Weber County."
The injunction violates constitutional protections provided by the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Fourteenth amendments, Richards argued.
Smith quoted a California appellate court decision upholding gang injunctions there: "It is for the protection of the community from the predations of the idle, the contentious, and the brutal that government was invented."
Richards, in his closing arguments, compared the injunction to the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.
Prosecutors are given the chance to respond to the defense's closing argument because they bear the burden of proof at trial, and Smith immediately assailed that characterization.
"I find that offensive," Smith said. "The Treces were not targeted because of race, religion or anything else but their criminal activity."
He noted that presiding 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones has been provided with the criminal records of 81 active Trece members in Ogden with more than 300 criminal convictions among them for crimes ranging from murder to graffiti.
That was only a quarter, he said, of the gang's estimated 300-plus members, as well as more than 90 now incarcerated at Utah State Prison.
"Economic harm flows from all these activities," Smith said.
Jones took the case under advisement, indicating a decision will be issued in coming weeks. The trial is to determine whether what is now a preliminary injunction becomes permanent.
"Which means forever," attorney David Reymann, associate counsel with the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said as he and defense attorneys huddled after Thursday's session.
"As it stands, they (Treces) are under a curfew for the rest of their lives."
They talked of the planned appeal to the Utah Supreme Court, fully expecting Jones to decide in favor of the injunction. It was Jones who approved the preliminary injunction in September 2010.
"Because of that, and given his rulings in the past, we didn't expect a win," said Reymann, who has attended the trial all week as an observer.
He said he and John Mejia, Utah ACLU legal director, would be filing the appeal along with Richards and the other two Trece trial lawyers, Mike Boyle and Mike Studebaker.