NOT ALWAYS A LATIN KING, JUDGE ORDERS: After 7 years of litigation, men found not to be gang members

ELGIN, Ill. –Today the Kane County Circuit Court entered a final order to dismiss Elgin’s 2010 anti-gang suit against four men who fought for seven years to clear their names. In September 2010, the City of Elgin and the State of Illinois sued brothers Elias and Saul Juarez and Oscar and Ruben Sanchez under Illinois’ Street Gang Prevention Act. The suit alleged that these four men were Latin King gang members and sought damages and an order prohibiting these men from speaking with known Latin Kings. At the time suit was filed, however, all four not only denied being in the gang but were actively involved in anti-gang efforts in the community.

Saul, who was never a Latin King, testified at trial that he had shared his faith in Jesus with his brother Elias, who then decided to leave the gang to follow Jesus as well. Elias testified in court of how he was beaten out of the gang and immediately began sharing his newfound faith with gang members in hopes that they too would leave. Oscar testified that he was the one who timed Elias’ 2-minute beating. Elias’ courage and conviction led Oscar and Ruben to leave the gang to follow Jesus as well.

Before the suit was filed, Elias and Saul would speak publicly at local schools to encourage boys to avoid gangs. Ruben even spoke on an anti-gang violence panel alongside an Elgin police officer at the Gail Borden Library. However, after the suit was filed, these four men were falsely re-branded Latin King gang members and were denied the opportunity to speak at the schools. They also had to forego their efforts to evangelize gang members for fear of Elgin using those efforts as evidence that they were part of the gang.

“Elgin has a history of wasteful and counter-productive legal actions. In the last ten years, we’ve had to defend churches, a homeless ministry, a pregnancy care center, and these anti-gang advocates from Elgin’s misguided efforts to stop them from serving the community.” said their legal counsel, Mauck & Baker attorney John Mauck.

Elgin’s own expert witness testified during a five day trial in January 2017 that even the Elgin Police Department no longer suspected these men to be gang members and had purged them from their gang database in 2013. Even so the government refused to dismiss the case, forcing these men to defend themselves for four more years. At the end of the trial, the city appealed to the Latin King motto, “Once a King, Always a King,” and the defendants appealed to the evidence of their changed lives. The court sided with the defendants, clearing their names. The defendants are still pursuing a court order requiring the government to pay for the attorneys’ fees and costs that were necessary for their defense against a baseless lawsuit.

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