By Celeste Fremon
Around 11:30, at the end of the closed hearing that began at 10 a.m. Alex Sanchez attorney Kerry Bensinger came out of the federal courtroom to talk to Sanchez family and a very, very small handful of supporters, whom he drew into a side room and broke the news. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real had granted Alex Sanchez bail.
One thing that can be said for the staggeringly quirky Real, he continues to surprise. This time the surprise was a good one for Sanchez and family.
The bail amount is set at $2 million. It is to be divided into $1 million in properties, $1 million in surities.
Since Sanchez supporters and family have already gathered $1.4 million in property, and $1 million in surities, “it’s only a matter of the paperwork,” said Monica Novoa, a Homies Unidos board member who is very close to the family and thus was in the room.
Understandably, there will be stringent restrictions, which have been agreed upon but not been spelled out publicly. (There will, for instance, be no contact allowed with active gang members.)
“But any of it’s fine,” said Novoa. “We really feel that this is the beginning of a fair trial for Alex. He’ll be able to see his family, sleep in his own bed, meet with his attorney, and work for his own defense. That’s all we ever asked for.”
As to who was inside the closed hearing, there were assuredly LAPD officers. And there was supposed to be someone from inside City Hall or failing that, someone who works closely with City Hall and who knows the LA gang world and the gang intervention world. (Connie Rice, for example, would be on the latter list.)
I have heard floating rumors that the City Hall someone inside the closed courtroom may possibly have been City Council Member Tony Cardenas.
If true, this makes a great deal of sense. The mayor’s gang czar, Guillermo Cespedes, could have concievably been called in but he’d have had little or nothing concrete to add to the conversation in the way of personal knowledge, as he didn’t take over his post until September (Sanchez was arrested last June) and prior to the gang czar gig, he was running Summer Night Lights thus would have had no reason to deeply interact with Sanchez and the area of town in which the government alleges Sanchez was operating.
There is former gang czar, Jeff Carr, the mayor’s chief of staff. But Carr, while he’d worked with Sanchez and would be deemed knowledgeable, would have been unwise to come down on one side or the other of this very controversy-fraught case because, either way he leaned he would risk alienating a group that is important to the mayor. In short, his appearance, no matter how super secret, would have been a no-win for Carr or his boss Antonio.
Cardenas, however, is arguably the most knowledgeable of the three. He has a long-term professional relationship with Sanchez and other gang interventionists and gang recovery agencies—and with the police— due to his multi-year chairmanship of the Council’s Ad-hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development. Thus, with the right phone calls, he was in a position to gather some genuine intel from both sides of the argument, plus he likely has a gut take on the case of his own.
Although I have criticized Cardenas plenty of times over the years, I have also known him to, at times, show an unusual amount of moral courage when the cameras were turned off and there was nothing to gain, especially for a politician.
So, while I don’t know if the mystery City Hall person was Tony Cardenas, he would be my pick as the one whom Judge Real would have been wise to call. Had he been called in, I would like to think he would have told what he believed to be the real truth—whatever that real truth might be.
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