Power from the Jail Cell: The Mexican Mafia gets a Full Acquittal

By Raquel Vasquez
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The psychology involved in the aesthetics Photo courtesy of David Lena and GSA

In 2013 the Federal Government announced in a salivating press release that they had indicted 13 people of the Mexican Mafia and the La Familia Drug Cartel. It took years to build this case, and over 500 law enforcement personnel to execute this major operation. Let’s keep in mind the federal judiciary system is funded over 7 billion dollars annually. This federal case hosts a plethora of criminal charges, and countless motions, discoveries, and more motions to dismiss. At the end of the day, it all fell apart. The case result was a full acquittal, a huge victory for the accused, and for Mr. Carlo Spiga defense attorney. I decided to reach out to him and ask for an interview. His answer was yes.

I wanted to find out how a bonafide Mexican Mafia inmate could win a case against the Feds?

It all starts with prison gangs. Way before any case against one said leader, there’s been a problem with prison gangs since the 70’s. The Mexican Mafia, which has approximately one hundred members are American nationals from neighborhoods like Norwalk and Pomona. The people they tax, extort, deal, conspire, smuggle, transport, stab and murder are its own members and all Latino street gangs. That is who they rule and that’s who they govern. They rule and govern from prison. The Mexican Mafia, it’s family members and associates operate in a world of their own. They are a certain sector.

The Mexican Mafia is a systematic, strategic, intelligently run organization. With the cooperation of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, the Mexican Mafia or “La Eme” is the most violent and calculated gang ever known to conduct a nation wide business from behind bars. The Federal Government is working night and day to try to halt their activities. This is an example of how they go about doing that. The goal, to keep one notorious Jose Rodriguez “Fox” Landa in custody. As one case gets dealt to the system for due process, the next case gets started, so on and so forth.

As soon as “Fox” was released from federal prison on one matter, he was chauffeured straight to county jail on a state case. He’s currently in Men’s Central Jail, the old and haunted jail that holds what they call “high power” inmates. “You have to be built for it” said “Fox” from La Eme “I’m built for this shit.” Not everyone can handle being handcuffed and shackled everywhere he goes. A one inch thick mattress on a slab of cement to sleep on is not for all. Spending months in solitary confinement or a SHU program isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It takes a certain kind of somebody. Yes, it’s as scary as it sounds.

Federal Court is different than State Criminal Court. Have you ever seen the Federal Court building in DTLA? Probably not, because cars are not allowed to drive on that street. Only public transit is allowed. You have to park blocks away and walk to the building. As you approach the building, you see the signs that say no cars are allowed and you scratch your head and say wow nobody’s allowed to drive on this street. The next thought that comes to your mind is Jesus Christ do I really have to walk in there?

Looking southwest standing at First and Broadway (Photo: ArchDaily)

The Federal Courthouse is extremely intimidating. It’s huge, it’s cold, it’s dark. It has giant marble pillars, the official California Seal is everywhere you look, it is dimly-lit just to add a sense of disengagement, of unfamiliarity, of a non friendly feeling. You feel guilty just approaching the building, everybody is guilty in this building, they have to be! It is downright frightening, and that is just how the Feds like it. In this matter, the case was held in the new Federal Courthouse, and it’s completely different. It’s not made of marble with giant intimidation factors. It’s more like a modern airport hangar. Not only was that better for the defendant, but better for the defense attorney. The atmosphere didn’t spell GUILTY.

How do you stop prison gangs? When I asked Mr. Spiga, he answered “sending them to prison is like sending a politician to Washington.”

For three hours I listened and asked questions to attorney Mr. Carlo Spiga who represented “Fox” and was up against the Federal Government. This case, it’s cause, is an entire career for these Federal Government employees.

It all starts with a phone call. Encrypted conversations are recorded and analyzed, the Feds are listening. The initial phone call made by a Mexican Mafia female associate, was of course for the most important thing for someone in custody, to establish protection.

The old Federal Court Building Photo by Raquel Vasquez

The reason why certain individuals need protection, is because there’s an entire interrelation of gangs in jail. The ones needing protection in this circumstance were the La Familia Drug Cartel from Michoacan Mexico. Out of the necessity for protection, a phone call was made, and a deal was born.

What’s important to remember is that every player in this game is a criminal. In this specific situation, the main protagonist was an informant. The informant was allegedly a Mexican Mafia member that needed leniency on a murder kidnapping case. Landa did not know he had turned informant, but knew of his murder kidnapping beef. This informants own criminal activity had him in a lot of hot water. Both with his own organization and with law enforcement. He had a green light on him. “Green light” means there was a hit with his name on it. That was enough for Landa to not want him involved in anything.

As in all business negotiations, someone is going to take a deal that works for one side, and make sure it works for two sides. That calls for some changes and agreements. Some of that change would be that cartel members in Los Angeles County Jail would get to be what’s known as a “southsider.” Without having to write another story, lets just say in Southern California, you want to be a “southsider.’ Who would want to be from anywhere other than LA in Los Angeles County Jail?

The problem here is communication. It’s quite difficult to get messages to people, make or receive phone calls, or pass “kites” from a jail cell. Everything takes a lot of patience and time. For months, while this deal was trying to get made,“Fox” was trying to get the message across that this guy had a green light on him and was bad news. All the while the feds are listening. After all they have their informant orchestrating the deal. The informants freedom relied on this deal going through. The informant was allegedly given a large sum of money from the drug cartel in “good faith.” The whole case was fabricated to prosecute Landa for creating a deal that in fact was entirely orchestrated by the informant.

Mr. Spiga made this clear to the jury. The jury didn’t believe one word the informant had to say. Why would they? The informant was a known criminal with his own corrupt agenda.

No warm fuzzy’s are given at the old Federal Court Building Photo by Raquel Vasquez

Throughout the entire case Mr. Spiga had been under surveillance, his phones had been tapped, and his background busted wide open by the Federal Government trying to find anything that they could to get him removed from this case.

The average consensus is that defense attorneys are defending the client that sits in their chair. Consider that they also protect our constitutional rights. When I asked Mr. Spiga what do you tell the person that asks “how do you feel about defending a notorious prison gang member?” Spiga’s answer, “Is a doctor ever told no you cannot help that person because he is too bad of a person? Is the priest ever told no you cannot bless that man because he has been too horrible? Is the kitchen ever told no you cannot feed that man because he has done too many wrongs? Only the attorney is told no no no you can’t help that man!”

As of this moment no one knows what happened to the informant, he has disappeared.

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