Gang Law Gets Use in Pr. George's Death

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 22, 2009

When a Prince George's County teenager pleaded guilty last week to second-degree murder and participating in a gang crime that led to a death, it marked the first time prosecutors in the county, and perhaps the state, had used an anti-gang statute enacted in 2007.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Circuit Court Judge Larnzell Martin Jr. sentenced Rony Izaguirre-Henriquez, 18, to 30 years in prison, the maximum for second-degree murder. For the gang offense, Martin gave Izaguirre-Henriquez 20 years, which, under the plea agreement, will be served concurrently.

Izaguirre-Henriquez was accused of fatally stabbing Guillermo Enrique Medina, 15, as he walked home from Parkdale High School in the Riverdale are about 2:40 p.m. April 2. Izaguirre-Henriquez jumped out of a gold Honda and approached the student, according to prosecutors and police.

Izaguirre-Henriquez then flashed a gang sign and asked Guillermo whom he represented, prosecutors said. Guillermo, who police and prosecutors say belonged to a rival gang, said he didn't want trouble. Izaguirre-Henriquez fatally stabbed him anyhow, authorities said.

Under the anti-gang law, which took effect in October 2007, prosecutors must prove that a defendant is a member of an active gang and committed a crime of violence, such as murder, rape, kidnapping, carjacking or robbery.

In addition, prosecutors must show that the crime was committed to advance the goals of the gang. For example, if a gang member killed his girlfriend in a domestic attack, such a crime would not be covered under the law, said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), whose office sponsored the statute.

The law allows judges to impose a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The law does not require that sentences for violations of the anti-gang statute be imposed consecutively, which some state prosecutors say would have made the law stronger.

At least three state's attorney's offices in the Washington suburbs have yet to prosecute anyone under the anti-gang statute.

"We have looked at various gang crimes here in Montgomery County to see if the law was applicable," said Jeffrey Wennar, an assistant state's attorney in Montgomery County who is part of State's Attorney John McCarthy's gang unit. "We've not yet designated a test case. You want to make sure you have the right case."

Calvert County State's Attorney Laura L. Martin said she also has not prosecuted anyone under the statute.

"We have some minor gang activity in Calvert County, nothing to the extent of what you see in Montgomery or Prince George's," Martin said.

Most of the ganglike activity in Calvert consists of "taggers," teenagers or young men who spray-paint graffiti on public buildings, Martin said.

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