Street gang violence is horrible. Gangs destroy communities, and indeed, terrorize people. But should post 9-11 anti-terrorism statutes be applied to them? Must someone who argues against looking to legislative intent when interpreting statutes merely shrugged his shoulders, or should he be outraged that a law passed for a specific reason is applied beyond the intent of its enactors?
This comprehensive article discusses the recent application of New York's anti-terrorism statutes to gang activity.
Every time Lourdes Morales watches the TV news and sees a story on terrorism, she weeps.
Family members have stopped trying to console her, but they, too, cannot understand why Edgar Morales, the family's youngest son, will see the new year arrive in prison where he is waiting to be tried as a terrorist.
"They are comparing my son to (Osama) bin Laden ... and all those people who used bombs and killed thousands of people at random," said Morales. "They are making him look as if he was this cold-hearted person, and he is not like that."
Morales, 22, was indicted on murder and other charges as acts of terror in May, along with 18 other members of the St. James Boys Gang, a Mexican and Mexican-American street gang. Morales faces the most serious charge of second-degree murder as a terrorist act.
A New York grand jury returned the charges against him in connection with the shooting death of 10-year-old Melanie Mendez, who died from gunshot wounds two years earlier.
If the charges did not include the terrorism stipulation, he would face a sentence of 25 years to life if found guilty. With the stipulation, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"Gangs are a forum to promote terrorism," said Balboni spokeswoman Lisa Angerame. "Therefore, the anti-terrorism statue would be applicable against them, even if the original intent for this law was not exactly to prosecute them."