Prosecutors pushing for death penalty for alleged MS-13 member after seven murders


BRENTWOOD, NY – President Trump warned about MS-13.  Maybe now people will listen?

Jairo Saenz, allegedly the Number 2 leader for the vicious MS-13 gang “branch” in New York, may get the death penalty for the murder of two Brentwood, NY high school students. 

If the death penalty is assessed on Saenz, it will mark the first death penalty verdict in New York state since 1954. 

Brentwood, a community between Central Islip and Deer Park on Long Island, has seen an incredible amount of MS-13 gang activity over the past few years. 

Prosecutors announced their plan this week.  The announcement comes four months after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Jairo’s brother, Alexi Saenz, the alleged leader of the gang for the 2016 killing of Brentwood students Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.

 dditionally, aside from the two students, Saenz and his brother are on trial for five more murders, bringing the total to seven.

Prosecutors pushing for death penalty for alleged MS-13 member after seven murders
Screenshot courtesy of News 12 Hudson Valley

In the case involving the Saenz brothers, prosecutors allege that Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens were beaten to death with baseball bats and hacked with machetes after Cuevas had a “petty dispute” with a gang member.

Nisa Mickens’ father is against the death penalty in the case, though, asking News 12:

“Why does another family have to suffer the way I’m suffering?”

Sergio Argueta, anti-gang activist, says the death penalty does little to deter gang membership and gang-related crimes:

“What we know is harsh penalties have never really had an impact in interrupting the gang pipeline.  So if you want to keep people from gang life, what you do is offer opportunities before they get involved.”

Interestingly, since New York hasn’t had a death penalty case since 1954, and certainly not one related to MS-13, it is difficult to ascertain where Argueta gets the information with which to base his opinion.

Prosecutors pushing for death penalty for alleged MS-13 member after seven murders
Screenshot courtesy of News 12 Hudson Valley

Richard Klein, a death penalty expert, says that historically, the federal government has sought the death penalty to put pressure on the defendants to enter a guilty plea-

“Sometimes if a defendant knows – ‘if I go to trial, I can well receive the death penalty,’ the defendant then might attempt to work out a plea deal where the defendant would enter a plea of guilty, there wouldn’t be the need for the trial, there wouldn’t be the need for the families to have to testify.”

For background, Mara Salvatrucha, the official name of the MS-13 gang enterprise, was established in Los Angeles in the 1970s, mostly made up of El Salvadoran immigrants. 

“Mara” is Spanish for “gang” and “Salvatrucha” is a slang term for Salvadoran army ants.

These early gang members initiated their own group in order to protect other El Salvadoran immigrants from harm handed out by established Los Angeles street gangs. 

Though the initial gesture, intent, and meaning may have been noble, MS-13 quickly developed into a brutal gang famous for nasty killings and assaults, much like those of the two Brentwood girls.  

The gang is currently active in many parts of the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Most members are Central American, Salvadorans in particular.  Also, a large majority of the members are in the United States illegally.

MS-13 is alleged to have more than 10,000 members in all.

In an MS-13 related story, the Bay Area News Group in San Francisco reports that authorities arrested 17 MS-13 members and charged them with racketeering and assault charges . They were attacking rival gangs and attempting to “tax” the drug-dealing efforts of those gangs.

Defense attorneys told the Bay Area News Group that some of the 17 members are frustrated with the county prosecutors. They say that the district attorney’s office is dragging its feet in regards to sharing evidence.

Peter Arian, the attorney for Edwin “Muerte” Alvarado Amaya, who is accused of attempted murder and racketeering stated:

 “We’re just stymied…I have to say it’s frustrating.  When the government says ‘We’re diligently moving forward, we produced 25 phone calls that we’d like to use,’ that in my mind — for an entity with virtually unlimited resources that chose to file the case this way — that’s not progress.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aseem Padukone related that he understood their frustration, but one of the primary labs used for evidence in the case had been shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic:

“We expect the pace to pick up.  We’re not yet in a place where we can provide a concrete timeline, as of today.”

The explanation of the crimes and charges is mind-boggling and brutal:

“The charges against the defendants include multiple attempted murders, as well as allegations that several defendants communicated with MS-13 members in Los Angeles about plans to ‘murder of two rogue MS-13 members, all on the instruction from higher-ups in El Salvador.’

They also include a 2015 shooting of an alleged Norteño member, which was followed by a successful police chase; the alleged driver escaped police by going the wrong way down the Vermont Street offramp on Highway 101.

Most of the alleged attempted murders and assaults, though, involve knives, bats, machetes, and in one instance, a mop handle.

In court records, federal prosecutors have detailed several attacks on suspected Norteño members, including an attack outside a San Francisco pizza parlor where one alleged MS-13 member stood watch, machete in hand, while others used blunt objects — like a plastic water cooler — to beat the victim.”

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Report: More than 600 violent MS-13 gang members arrested since 2017. Where’s the media coverage?

October 31, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump and the US Department of Justice’ Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force designated the violent gang MS-13 as a top priority to apprehend and prosecute.

As a result, over 600 alleged gang members have been taking into custody since the President took office. In total, over 700 alleged gang members have been arrested since 2016.

According to the FBI, Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13, are a gang of mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran-Americans. The gang operates in 42 states and Washington, D.C. and has roughly 6,000 to 10,000 members throughout the country. 

The gang is notorious for drug trafficking, murder, rape, and numerous other violent crimes. 

The FBI said:

“Most of these crimes, you’ll notice, have one thing in common – they are exceedingly violent.  And while most of the violence is directed toward other MS-13 members or rival street gangs, innocent citizens often get caught in the crossfire.”

Because of their violence, the President and the DOJ have made it a priority to identify and apprehend these gang members. Since 2016, federal prosecutors have charged a total of 749 gang members, which has led to over 500 convictions for various crimes. 

Almost 400 of those convictions occurred while President Trump has been in office. Of those convictions, 37 of them led to life sentences for their involvement in gang activities. 

President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 for the federal government to disrupt any transnational criminal organization, which included MS-13. Part of that executive order required the DOJ to work closely with federal law enforcement agencies to close down the criminal organizations.

In a speech on Long Island, NY, in 2017 President Trump said:

“Together we’re going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we’re going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs.” 

Of those arrested, the DOJ is seeking the death penalty for two people that were allegedly involved in the MS-13 gang. In one case, Alexi Saenz is alleged to have murdered seven people from 2016 until 2017, while he was in New York. Four of his alleged victims were in high school and six of the seven were killed with a machete or baseball bat.

The other death penalty case involves gang member Elmer Zelaya Martinez, who allegedly assisted in the murders of two teenagers in Virginia in 2016. Those victims were 14 and 17 years of age.

In 2019, Attorney General William Barr went a step further and created a specialized task force, named Joint Task Force Vulcan, which was designed to eliminate MS-13 from the United States. The Task Force extended beyond US borders and included El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala. 

The Task Force prioritized federal prosecutions against gang members and leaders of MS-13. As a result, numerous indictments were gained from US Attorneys’ Offices throughout the nation. 

Barr said:

“In 2017, the President directed the Department of Justice to go to war against MS-13, and we did just that.

“In coordination with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department’s law enforcement components have successfully investigated, charged, and arrested command and control elements of MS-13 responsible for particularly heinous crimes against our communities.

“Joint Task Force Vulcan’s operations have significantly degraded MS-13 capabilities. 

“While there is still work to be done, the Department of Justice remains steadfastly committed to protecting Americans from MS-13, and we will not rest until we have successfully eradicated this violent gang.”


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