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Friday, 15 January 2010

Juan Ruben Vela Garcia denied being the leader of the MS-13 gang.


11:30 |

Juan Ruben Vela Garcia knew what he would say in court Thursday could get him killed.
From the witness stand, Garcia, a former member of the MS-13 gang, told jurors that six men on trial were members of the violent gang.
Asked by a prosecutor if he was nervous, Garcia, 30, replied: "Yes, sir, I am."
The prosecutor then asked why he was cooperating with law enforcement.
"I'm ashamed. I'm embarrassed...," he said. "That's the way to get out of the gang. You die or you become a rat. That's what I am now - a rat."Each of the six men on trial at the federal courthouse in Charlotte is charged with racketeering conspiracy. Some also face firearms, drugs and robbery charges. One is charged with murder.The six men on trial are among 26 suspected MS-13 gang members indicted in June 2008. Eighteen, including Garcia, have pleaded guilty. One man is in a prison in El Salvador. Another, charged with murder, is scheduled to be tried for his life later this year.Prosecutors have said the defendants were part of an international organization that committed crimes across Charlotte, including robbery, extortion and murder.Garcia told jurors he's in the witness protection program while incarcerated. He said he became a member of MS-13 in 2000."I joined to fit in - to be in something and to be somebody," Garcia said.
Defense lawyers questioned Garcia's motives for testifying and whether he was telling the truth. One of the lawyers suggested he was testifying because he faces a life sentence and hopes his cooperation will get him a lighter sentence."I just wanted to do the right thing," Garcia said. "I don't want to be a gang member."
Garcia also denied being the leader of the MS-13 gang."I was one of the guys a lot of people respected," he said. "The more people who know you, the more respect you gain."Another former MS-13 gang member, who authorities say helped them infiltrate the gang, took the stand Thursday afternoon. The 21-year-old informant videotaped gang meetings and drug buys, according to the FBI.The informant told jurors he's in the government's witness protection program.Asked by a prosecutor why he needs protection, he replied: "They'll kill me."


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