After four months of testimony, a massive racketeering and murder conspiracy trial of seven MS-13 gang members in federal court in San Francisco is due to begin winding up Monday with closing arguments.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup set the closing for Monday after prosecutors rested their rebuttal case Friday morning and defense attorneys said they, too, had no more witnesses.
“We’ve definitely reached a milestone, haven’t we?” Alsup told the 12 jurors and five alternates. “The evidence is now complete after many months,” he said.
The closing arguments by federal prosecutors and seven defense lawyers are expected to last all week. Alsup told attorneys he expects the jurors to start deliberating Aug. 15 after he completes giving their instructions.
The defendants, most of whom are in their early 20s, were members of a branch of the MS-13 — or Mara Salvatrucha — gang centered in the neighborhood of 20th and Mission streets in San Francisco.
All seven are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or participate in organized crime, and conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
Three are also charged with carrying out a total of four gunshot murders on San Francisco streets in 2008.
The racketeering conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison if the defendants are convicted and the murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence. The U.S. Department of Justice decided not to seek the death penalty for the murders.
Prosecutions allege the racketeering acts included murder, attempted murder, assault, robbery, extortion and drug dealing.
They contend the gang thrived on a culture of violence, in which members maintained and increased their gang stature by hunting, attacking and killing members or perceived members of rival gangs.
“It is undisputed on the record that MS-13 was a violent gang and the main rule or the gang was the commission of violence against rivals,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing last month.
“It is hard to imagine people more predisposed to violence than members of this particular gang,” the prosecutors said.
The defendants lost a key defense argument when Alsup ruled last week that they couldn’t argue they were entrapped into committing crimes by two government informants.