California board clears parole for ex-Mexican mob killer


FILE - In this August 17, 2011 file photo, a corrections officer works in one of the living quarters at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, California.  California authorities approved the parole of Mexican Mafia prison gang leader Rene Enriquez on Monday, July 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

FILE – In this August 17, 2011 file photo, a corrections officer works in one of the living quarters at Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City, California. California authorities approved the parole of Mexican Mafia prison gang leader Rene Enriquez on Monday, July 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

PA

California parole authorities have approved the release of a notorious former Mexican mafia gang leader who has cooperated with law enforcement for nearly 20 years.

Two consecutive governors previously blocked the parole of René “Boxer” Enriquez in part based on the argument that he is safer in prison than on the streets, where he can be targeted as a snitch by his old buddies. .

“They can’t deny him parole based on ‘He could be in danger.’ It’s a bit of a risk to take, ”said his lawyer, Laura Sheppard, on Tuesday.

Authorities have taken extraordinary steps to protect him over the years, once taking him into custody under a false name on a false charge of possessing swordfish without a license.

In 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department used SWAT officers and a police helicopter to secure a downtown building so Enriquez could talk to a group of police chiefs and business leaders about growth. and gang operations. Just last week, prison officials declined to provide his current photo, citing security concerns.

“With his knowledge of the Mafia, it’s his belief that if he stays away … he’ll be fine,” Sheppard said. “He doesn’t believe they’re going to chase him like you see in the movies, chase him around the world.

Still, Enriquez plans to continue cooperating with federal authorities as they once again prosecute the leaders of the prison gang that began in the 1950s in a juvenile prison and has since grown into an international criminal organization.

“That’s how he makes amends,” Sheppard said. “He’s probably prevented more crimes than he’s ever been involved in.”

He has been in prison since 1993, serving a life sentence for two second degree murders, multiple assaults and a drug trafficking conspiracy.

Enriquez joined the Mexican Mafia — nicknamed the Black Hand or “La Eme,” his initial in Spanish — in 1985 while serving a prison sentence for rape and armed robbery, parole records show. He spent nearly two decades building a reputation within the gang through murder, drug trafficking, and terror, both in and out of prison.

Governor Gavin Newsom handed the final decision on the fate of Enriquez, now 60, to a hearing by a 12-member panel of the 21-member parole board.

He cited in part “unique security threats”. Enriquez revealed “the inner workings of large-scale gang associations and informed about individual gang members. He has testified for the prosecution in numerous cases,” Newsom wrote.

Officials, including a retired assistant warden of the California prison system, told the parole board during a Monday hearing that Enriquez is a changed man who will continue to help law enforcement fight against the gang.

“I’ve seen the worst of the worst and I know he definitely changed his world,” said Felix Aguirre, a retired San Diego police detective and gang expert.

But Cynthia Figueroa Gavaldon’s parents and friends have lined up to say he is still dangerous and they fear for their safety upon his release. She was a 27-year-old mother of two young children when Enriquez ordered her death on Christmas Eve 1989.

Enriquez “has nothing to offer the community. Everything he has known and touched is dead,” said his father, Raymond Figueroa, calling Enriquez a “monster”.

He had two gang associates, including Figueroa’s daughter, killed for offenses such as stealing drugs and money. In the second case, he and an accomplice first overdosed their victim with heroin before driving her to a remote area where Enriquez shot and killed him.

He and another man also stabbed Mexican mob boss Salvador “Mon” Buenrostro 26 times with inmate-made weapons in 1991 in a Los Angeles County Jail interrogation room, though Buenrostro survived. .

Enriquez said he quit the gang in 2002 when he discovered its members were killing innocent children and parents of disgraced gang members. He said he would benefit from the assistance of a witness protection program if released.

And over the years, Enriquez has received dozens of letters of support for his parole from the FBI, local law enforcement officials, multiple state and federal prosecutors, and an assistant attorney general. State.

Newsom previously blocked Enriquez’s parole twice, in 2019 and 2020, and then-Governor Jerry Brown blocked it three times, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“He personally shaped and molded the Mexican Mafia’s expectations of its members and expanded the gang’s reach outside of prison,” Brown wrote in 2016.

Newsom said this time he was leaving a decision to the parole board because of his “unique procedural and appeal history” and “other unusually complex factors.” He asked parole officials to consider both Enriquez’s “particularly violent criminal history and his singular rehabilitation record.”

A Los Angeles County judge overturned Newsom’s 2020 parole waiver in August, saying the governor had failed to prove Enriquez was still dangerous. The Second District Court of Appeals had blocked Enriquez’s release while it considered Newsom’s appeal.

Sheppard said she hopes the appeals court will still rule on the case, even with Enriquez’s parole, to set a legal precedent that “the governor can’t just make a decision based on speculation. and historical issues.

The commissioners on Monday night separately ordered new parole hearings for two inmates of some notoriety.

Donald Bohana, 85, is serving a life sentence for the 1994 murder of Delores “Dee Dee” Jackson. She is the ex-wife of Tito Jackson, a member of the musical group Jackson 5.

Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll, 43, is serving a life sentence for a robbery in 1996, when he was just 17. He helped start a financial education program at San Quentin State Prison where he, other inmates and volunteers taught money management. He gave a TEDx talk in 2016 that has been viewed over 4.1 million times.

Both men were denied parole in March, Carroll for the first time and Bohana for the sixth time.

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