For more than three years, the surviving relatives of Tony Bologna and his sons Michael and Matthew have been waiting for justice.
Today, the trial of the man who prosecutors say mistook the Bolognas for gang rivals and fatally shot them during a daytime traffic encounter at an Excelsior district intersection may finally begin.
Edwin Ramos, now 25, has admitted to police that he drove the car that encountered the Bologna family at Maynard and Congdon streets on the afternoon of June 22, 2008. But he said another man, an MS-13 gang member who has since disappeared, fired the shots.
Months of pretrial hearings culminated last week in a testy exchange between trial Judge Charles Haines and defense attorneys in the case, who have filed a motion to disqualify him for “bias or the appearance of bias.”
Haines denied the motion, but the defense is appealing.
On Thursday, one of Ramos’ attorneys suggested that there had been inappropriate discussion of Haines’ denial outside of their presence, an allegation Haines, a former prosecutor, rejected.
“I don’t appreciate you coming in, on the record, and making these sorts of insinuations,” Haines said.
Defense attorneys also complained about being “sandbagged” with new evidence from the prosecution on the eve of the trial. Haines told them the trial was moving forward.
“If you’re getting sandbagged, I’ll take the appropriate action,” he said.
Police have described Ramos, of El Sobrante, as a hardened gang member with a prior record. They say he and other gang members were trolling the Excelsior district looking to retaliate against Norteños for the shooting earlier that day of one of their gang in the Mission district.
Defense attorneys maintain that Ramos left the gang years before the killings, but could never completely disassociate himself.
Ramos, his attorneys claim, was simply driving Wilfredo “Flaco” Reyes, an alleged MS-13 “shot-caller” with whom Ramos was friendly, to the Mission district that day.
“He said that he had no idea that Wilfredo would do something like that in his car,” said Marla Zamora, one of Ramos’ attorneys.
But a third Bologna son who survived the attack testified at a 2009 hearing that as the family was returning from a picnic in the East Bay, another car blocked their path at the intersection, and the driver, Ramos, glared at the family and brandished a gun. The son said he ducked as gunfire erupted.
Haines also ruled Thursday that the prosecution could admit certain evidence at trial, including Ramos’ statements to police during a March 2008 detainment while driving with another alleged MS-13 member. A gun in the car was later discovered to have been used in the slaying of two other men the day before. Ramos’ companion, Erick Lopez, was convicted of the murders last year in federal court.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin today, with opening statements later this month. More than 100 witnesses are expected to testify over several months.
June 22, 2008: Tony Bologna, 48, and two of his sons — Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16 — are fatally shot in their car in the Excelsior district.
June 25, 2008: Edwin Ramos, then 21, is arrested and charged with three counts of murder.
June 29, 2009: A judge rules after a two-week preliminary hearing there is sufficient evidence to hold Ramos for trial.
Feb. 22, 2010: A judge dismisses a Bologna family lawsuit in Superior Court alleging The City was liable for the killings for failing to deport Ramos after earlier arrests.
Today: Jury selection in the Ramos case is scheduled to begin. He faces three counts of murder, plus attempted murder and a gang allegation.