6 California street vendor advocates plead guilty to assault charges

Now it’s the “Justice 2.”

Six of the eight defendants accused of various crimes related to their aggressive tactics in defending street vendors and confronting others pleaded guilty to single felony counts on Friday, June 7, in Superior Court in Victorville.

The other two members of the so-called Justice 8 — their leader, Edin Alex Enamorado of Upland and the only one of the group not being held on bail, Gullit Eder Acevedo of San Bernardino — were not part of the plea agreements with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

Acevedo’s case is still in the pre-trial stage, and as for Enamorado, who has vowed to reject any deal that involves jail time, “We have not had a meeting of the minds,” Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson said after Friday’s hearing.

Enamorado, 36, was not in court.

“We are still negotiating a settlement,” his attorney, Nicholas Rosenberg, said in a text message.

The other six pleaded guilty to various versions of assault with a deadly weapon.

Wendy Lujan of Upland, who is Enamorado’s fiancee; Vanessa Carrasco of Ontario; and Stephanie Amesquita of San Bernardino will be sentenced to 353 days in county jail on Dec. 12 and on that date be given credit for 353 days time served, according to terms of the plea bargains announced by Superior Court Judge John M. Wilkerson.

They were scheduled to be released on their own recognizance Friday.

David Chavez of Riverside, Edwin Pena of Los Angeles and Fernando Lopez of Los Angeles will be sentenced to two years in state prison with about one year credit for time served to be subtracted from that term. They remained in custody Friday.

Enamorado and the others are being prosecuted in San Bernardino County for such charges as assault, kidnapping, conspiracy and, in Enamorado’s case, also being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors say the activists crossed the line from advocacy for the marginalized and the aggrieved to intimidation and assault.

Enamorado is known mostly for his defense of street vendors, some who have suffered robberies, racist rants and, in Enamorado’s view, overly restrictive municipal regulations that come with excessive punishments.

Supporters say he is a champion of the voiceless, a community activist who in protected speech stands up to power. Those who have attended the hearings say they wish someone like Enamorado had been around when they believe they were unjustly targeted by police or were facing trouble such as domestic violence.

Supporters offer that he is a political prisoner — but a judge said he and co-defendants are such a threat to others that they must remain jailed without bail.

Rosenberg, Enamorado’s attorney, previously said his client is fighting for his freedom and will not accept any plea bargain that includes jail time.

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“My slogan on this case is, ‘Confrontational is not criminal,’ ” Rosenberg said. “I believe he is an activist at heart. I refer to my client as a young Cesar Chavez. … Yes, we do have two fistfights (involving Enamorado). Is it provoked? Is it self-defense? That’s up to a jury to decide.”

But others say Enamorado has trampled the line between protected speech and criminal behavior.

District Attorney Jason Anderson, who filed the charges in this case, called it “a garden-variety case of violence. It has nothing to do with the First Amendment.”

Anderson cited an attack on a security guard at a convenience store in Pomona who had told a street vendor who was set up on private property to leave. A group that included Enamorado tracked down the guard and assaulted him, Anderson said.

And a man who tried to enter the Pomona police station to file a report and blamed Enamorado’s group that was protesting there for being unable to get inside was assaulted as well, Anderson said.

“He was pulled out of his car and made to grovel and say he was sorry and he still got assaulted,” Anderson said.

That encounter was videotaped and posted on Enamorado’s YouTube channel. Enamorado has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Sheriff Shannon Dicus has said the Justice 8 is all about “clickbait for cash.”


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