Police say the MS-13 gang is behind ten murders in the city. Several were arraigned at the Santa Maria Courthouse today.
This will be the last time we’ll see these defendants in court this year and it’s looking like this case is going to drag out a lot longer. Today the judge set a Further Arraignment for April 7th.
The number of homicides in Santa Maria spiked at the end of 2015 and spilled over to 2016 until police made a number of arrests earlier this year in connection to those murders.
“Today the defendants requested more time and continued the case for further arraignment to April 7th,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen said.
Several victim’s family members were in court Friday but were hesitant to talk to us on camera.
“The people had filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint because it was superceded by the grand jury indictment.. and the judge granted that motion,” Bramsen said.
12 suspects are charged with First Degree Murder – they remain in jail with no bond.
“They did not enter any pleas today,” Bramsen said.
Two others suspects are charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder.
Reporter: “Is your client innocent?”
Tom Allen, Defense Attorney: “Is my client innocent? We’ve entered a not-guilty plea,” Defense attorney Tom Allen said.
One of those accused suspects is Jose Bonilla Mejia. His attorney Tom Allen is defending him.
“I had filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the basis that my client had been denied the fundamental due process right, constitutional right to the effective assistance of council.. and the court disagreed,” Allen said.
14 victims survived the violence. The incidents took place between January 2013 and March of this year.
The 12 suspects charged with First Degree Murder face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They’re also charged with Special circumstance of Torture, Criminal Street Gang Conspiracy and Witness intimidation by Force.
The Further Arraignment is set for April 7th.