The opening arguments are scheduled for Monday in the San Francisco trial of Edwin Ramos, accused of murdering Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, (shown below) who were driving home from a family picnic June 22, 2008.
The crime aroused disgust and anger around the country when it was learned that Ramos was an illegal alien gangster who had committed earlier violent crimes but was not even deported from lawbreaker-friendly San Francisco. See my 2008 article, They Also Kill People in Your Town.
The surviving Bologna family members brought a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for causing the deaths by dealing so irresponsibly with a dangerous criminal, but the suit was rejected by the court.
More than three and a half years have passed since this horrific time. One might hope that government would have learned from the case how dangerous it is to coddle foreign criminals.
In fact, the state of public safety has arguably gotten worse when illegal aliens are involved. A few examples: Cook County Illinois now releases violent illegal aliens criminals on bail, California has ended checkpoint impounds of vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers and the common sense Secure Communities program from the feds has been rejected by some liberal enclaves (e.g. Massachusetts, Santa Clara County and San Francisco).
Perhaps the trial will remind the public of how much is at stake.
Edwin Ramos trial to have 2 versions of killings, San Francisco Chronicle, January 22, 2012
Edwin Ramos was either hunting for gang rivals or was an unwitting dupe in the mistaken-identity slayings in San Francisco of a father and two sons, one of the most notorious crimes in the city in recent years.
Those are the competing versions that prosecutors and the defense are expected to present Monday when Ramos, 25, goes on trial for murder in the killings of Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, who were shot to death driving home in the Excelsior district on a bright Sunday afternoon June 22, 2008.
The case first drew widespread attention for its random brutality. It became a national story when The Chronicle reported that city juvenile-justice officials, relying on San Francisco’s sanctuary-city policy, had twice kept Ramos from possible deportation after he committed gang-related crimes as a minor.
“It’s a big, big case,” said Joseph O’Sullivan, a San Francisco defense attorney who briefly represented Ramos. “He’s alleged to have almost wiped out a family. It’s unheard of. It’s a very small city, and many people knew the family. I hope he gets a fair trial.”
Attorneys and Superior Court Judge Charles Haines have gone to some lengths to find a jury untainted by the furor that surrounded the killings, picking 12 members and eight alternates from an initial pool of more than 1,000 people. Selecting the panel took two weeks.
Assistant District Attorney Harry Dorfman, the lead prosecutor on the case, has identified more than 300 possible witnesses to support his argument that Ramos carried out the killings to avenge an earlier shooting that was part of a feud between the MS-13 gang and its Mission District rivals.
Many of the gang members involved in the feud, which authorities blame for nine slayings, are now behind bars, thanks in part to a federal crackdown that included more than two dozen indictments. Dorfman may call some of them to the stand.
The prosecution’s key witness will be Tony Bologna’s surviving son, who was in the car when his father and brothers were shot and has testified that Ramos pulled the trigger. Prosecutors have asked that he not be named in the media, stressing that he remains under witness protection.
‘He just shot’
The 21-year-old son testified at Ramos’ preliminary hearing that his family was just about home from a family gathering in Fairfield when another driver started “mugging” his father, who made a face as if he didn’t understand. The gunman was about a foot and a half away as he drove next to the Bologna family’s Honda.
Without saying anything, Ramos aimed a chrome handgun and fired at least four times in rapid succession, the son said.
“No words were exchanged. He just let loose on my family,” the son said. “He just shot.”
Prosecutors say Ramos mistook at least one of the Bologna sons for a gang rival.
Ramos’ legal team, headed by Marla Zamora, has listed as many as 100 possible witnesses in his defense. In pretrial hearings, the defense has challenged the surviving Bologna son’s account and blamed Wilfredo “Flaco” Reyesruano – the now-vanished leader of a faction of the MS-13 gang – as the true gunman in the slayings.
Ramos told investigators it was Flaco who mistook the Bologna sons for rivals and opened fire at Congdon and Maynard streets.
“Our position is he (Ramos) was very much giving a friend a ride and that individual, completely unexpectedly, opened fire,” said Andrea Lindsay, who is assisting in the defense.
Dorfman is expected to focus on Ramos’ history in the MS-13 gang to show that he was more than a passive participant in the slayings. The prosecutor has lined up many other reputed gang members, some who have been proved in pretrial hearings to be reluctant witnesses.
In portraying him as an innocent, the defense will have to counter Ramos’ troubled history as a juvenile offender.
Ramos was not in the United States legally at the time he was identified as one of three alleged MS-13 members who beat up a man on a Muni bus in the Mission District in 2003. Prosecutors said the attackers had been “checking” passengers to determine what gang they were affiliated with.
Instead of referring him to federal authorities for possible deportation, juvenile authorities placed Ramos in a shelter and later released him to his mother in April 2004.
Four days later, he assaulted a pregnant woman and her brother, and was sentenced to the city’s Log Cabin Ranch for felony attempted robbery. He was released in February 2005, again without juvenile authorities reporting him to federal immigration officials.
The Juvenile Probation Department had ordered employees not to report minors to immigration officials under the agency’s interpretation of San Francisco’s sanctuary policy, which barred city officials from cooperating with deportations.
City’s policy eased
The revelations about Ramos’ history of juvenile offenses fueled a controversy over the policy and ultimately led then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to order that all undocumented juvenile offenders be reported to immigration officials. The policy has since been eased to allow authorities to exercise discretion in deciding whether to report offenders.
Tony Bologna’s widow, Danielle, and daughter sued the city, arguing that the sanctuary policy had ultimately allowed Ramos to commit the killings. A judge dismissed the suit, ruling that cities “generally are not liable for failing to protect individuals against crime.”