No verdict yet in alleged local MS-13 leader's trial
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
After almost three hours of deliberations in the federal gang trial of alleged local MS-13 leader Jose Bran, jurors went home for the night. They told the judge they could not reach a ruling on the five felony charges relating to murder and gang participation.
Prosecutors call the local group of MS-13, the "sailors set," "an illegal, amoral and satanic gang." They left jurors with those words just before deliberations began Friday afternoon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roderick C. Young said a guilty verdict would hopefully put an end to the brutality.
For both sides, whether or not the jury believes the allegation Jose Bran is the leader or "first word" of the sailors is key. All five charges, including murder, maiming and conspiracy had to be done to further the gang, in order to find Bran guilty.
The counts stem from two crimes.
The government accuses Bran of ordering the 2011 shooting death of Osbin Hernandez-Gonzales at Pony Pasture as gang initiation for two juveniles. One witness testified Bran said: "If you want to get in the gang, do it."
The other incident occurred just a few months later. The government alleges Bran called for his fellow gang members or "soldiers" to attack a suspected rival gang member. The victim was stabbed 14 times, but lived to identify his attackers.
Bran did not testify in his own defense, but his lawyers say he did not order the killings or "green lights" and he is not the leader of the sailors. They maintain, in fact, there was a power struggle among other members for the head seat.
Defense attorneys believe those fellow MS-13 members only took the witness stand as part of plea deals to get shorter sentences in their cases. Mary Maguire, one of three public defenders for Bran, told the jury, "You need to think about whether you can swallow the lies of cold blooded killers."
If convicted, Bran could spend the rest of his life behind bars. In the federal system, the jury does not make a sentencing recommendation, so it would not have to deliberate further after returning a verdict.