Conviction draws attention to Calif. 'sanctuary' law
Gang-related shooting in 2008; city policy prevented Ramos from being turned over for deportation after prior offenses
By Terry Collins
SAN FRANCISCO — A jury convicted an illegal immigrant Wednesday of killing a father and two of his sons in a gang-related shooting that also drew attention to San Francisco's sanctuary policy.
Edwin Ramos, 25, was guilty of three counts of first-degree murder as well as a single count of attempted murder. He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on June 4.
Prosecutors said Ramos opened fire on a car carrying Tony Bologna, 48, and his three sons — Michael, 20, Matthew, 16 and Andrew — in June 2008. They said Ramos was seeking revenge for the shooting of a fellow MS-13 gang member earlier in the day.
Under the city's sanctuary policy, Ramos, an illegal immigrant, had never been turned over for deportation despite previous run-ins with the law as a juvenile.
On Wednesday, Jurors reached its verdict after a week of deliberating. Danielle Bologna, Tony Bologna's wife and the mother of their three sons, began sobbing aloud while the verdicts were read as her son, Andrew Bologna, the lone survivor of the attack, held her tightly.
Other family members also cried openly and cheered Many wore white T-shirts that read, Finally Justice is Served for the Bologna Family!"
Danielle Bologna later said that justice indeed had been served as she waited nearly four years to hear Ramos was guilty.
"This day really means a lot to us because justice is one of those days you have to wait for and it was worth waiting for," she said. "I feel like a huge thing has been lifted off of my shoulders."
While jurors found Ramos guilty of first degree murder for the triple homicide and believed that it was willful, deliberate and for the benefit of a gang, they were deadlocked on whether he was the actual shooter and a conspiracy to commit murder.
During his testimony, Ramos maintained he was only the driver of the car and didn't know his passenger, Wilfredo Reyes, would start shooting. Reyes has not been located.
"We are surprised that the jury could not agree on whether Mr. Ramos actually fired the gun, yet still chose to convict him on first-degree murder," Ramos' attorney, Marla Zamora, said in an email Wednesday. "Justice has not been delivered to the City of San Francisco nor the victims so long as the killer, Wilfredo Reyes, is still on the streets."
District Attorney George Gascon disagreed, saying that despite jurors could not decide whether Ramos was the triggerman, they did their job in a complex trial that hopefully gives the Bologna family, who are in a witness protection program, a fresh start.
"This was a horrible incident that destroyed a family and we all collectively hope that this will be the beginning of a new life for the Bologna family and that they can recover and go on with their lives," Gascon said. "The threat against her and her family was very real. We didn't take it lightly and they had to be relocated because of that."
Gascon also said his office will not rest until they bring Reyes to justice.
Danielle Bologna said during this ordeal that her fallen loved ones have been looking down on her family, especially her son, Andrew Bologna who took the stand during the three-month-old trial and identified Ramos as the gunman.
"I'm so proud of him. When you see the courage in this kid who was in that vehicle and had to fight for his family," she said. "He did a damn good job!"
Danielle Bologna also said in a written statement released Wednesday that she believes that Ramos was shielded under the city's sanctuary policy and that no one officially still has told her why he was on the streets.
Under the sanctuary policy, illegal immigrants charged with crimes as minors were not handed over to federal immigration officials but instead flown home or housed in California at the city's expense.
The city has since closed that loophole.
Gascon said the issue of immigration is a nationwide problem that needs fixing at a higher level.
"I think simply just to say, `Well if we had deported this young man, this crime would not have occurred,'" Gascon said. "I know it has an emotional appeal to it, but I think it doesn't address the real issues here."
Copyright 2012 Associated Press