Federal judge bans identifying accused as SNM gang member

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Jonathan Tony Sanchez was not your typical convicted felon. Likewise, his recent federal trial for being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition was far from ordinary.

The FBI had identified Sanchez as one of eight members of the ultra-violent Syndicato Nuevo Mexico prison gang on the streets of Albuquerque who were tapped in 2015 to kill the then Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Corrections. , and two other prison administrators. and their families.

Jonathan Tony Sanchez

Sanchez, 36, of Albuquerque, was not charged in the years of racketeering charges against the gang and the murder plot was foiled. But when Sanchez was arrested in an Albuquerque apartment in March 2021 for violating his state parole for a drug conviction, the FBI and federal prosecutors became interested in the .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol found on the premises – a weapon that later showed traces of his DNA.

During his three-day federal trial on the firearms charge last week, Sanchez was allowed to wear makeup in court to hide his gang-mark tattoos. U.S. District Judge David Urias of Albuquerque also granted defense motions barring prosecutors from using Sanchez’s gang name, Kilo, or mentioning his SNM gang affiliation.

The government also could not mention that he fled state parole when fleeing state investigators and Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies forced their way in. in a Wellesley NE flat when no one inside heeded calls to come out.

Government photos showing the smashed door were banned during the trial. Investigators who testified simply said they had to open the door and wait inside until Sanchez came downstairs because they were serving a warrant.

Urias — appointed to the bench earlier this year — granted several defense motions to exclude what federal prosecutors said was admissible evidence. The defense deemed it prejudicial or unrelated to the firearms case.

But after two hours of deliberation on Thursday, the jury found Sanchez guilty – a sentence that carries up to 10 years in prison.

Defense attorneys Michael Rosenfield and Phillip Sapien could not be reached for comment on Friday.

But their defense focused primarily on what was found on the handgun, which was inside a small open purse on a table near the front door. The purse belonged to Sanchez’s girlfriend, who is now his wife, Guadalupe Sanchez. She had been charged with smuggling contraband into prison in 2020, but that state charge was dismissed after she entered a pre-prosecution diversion program. Neither she nor Sanchez testified.

At trial, an FBI DNA expert said 84% of the DNA found on the gun came from a woman, 14% from Sanchez and 2% from an unidentified man.

The defense argued that Sanchez’s DNA could have been transferred to the gun without him ever touching it. It could have happened through his personal contact with his girlfriend who could have left his DNA on the gun, Sanchez’s attorneys argued.

The state was not allowed to question witnesses about whether Sanchez was a fugitive of justice during his arrest, after defense attorneys convinced the judge it would make their client appear to be an “irresponsible convict”.

At the time, law enforcement was looking for Sanchez after he ran away from parole for possession of a control substance. He had previous convictions for robbery, trafficking in a controlled substance and receiving/transferring a stolen vehicle. As a criminal, he cannot possess firearms or ammunition.

On the morning of his arrest, an officer from the Corrections Department’s Security Threat Investigation Unit testified they used loud sirens and a public address system to get someone to open the door. Then they pushed open the front door. An FBI criminal complaint said it took another 15 minutes for Sanchez to descend from the floor where he was with another alleged SNM member.

FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee, who led the FBI’s investigation into the SNM’s criminal activities, testified Wednesday that he was contacted after the gun was recovered and that Sanchez’s girlfriend later told him that she had the gun. Sanchez, in an interview, admitted that his DNA might be on the gun, Acee testified.

Acee did not mention the SNM on the witness stand, but identified himself to the jury as the coordinator of the FBI’s Violent Crime Gang Task Force.

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