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updated: 8/30/2011 5:18 AM

Former Elgin gang members fight lawsuit

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The City of Elgin last year filed a lawsuit with the state against Latin Kings gang members in an attempt to stop them from associating with other gang members.

Some of the more than 30 people named in the suit have settled, saying they will agree to those restrictions, but four defendants are hoping to get their names dropped from the suit and remain free to contact gang members in the name of salvation.

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Chicago-based legal firm Mauck and Baker LLC filed a motion on behalf of Elginites Elias Juarez, 26, Saul Juarez, 24, Ruben Sanchez, 23, and Oscar Sanchez, 24, arguing none of the men is a gang member, though three admit to being former Latin Kings. The motion also requests recovery of attorney fees for the men's defense.

"We and our clients don't want to thwart any efforts of Elgin as far as breaking up the Latin Kings gang," said Mauck and Baker attorney Lee McCoy. "But basically our four clients are trying to do the same thing in their way."

The law providing the foundation for the case against the men is called the Illinois Street Gang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act. The act, passed in 1993, said the activities of street gangs is not constitutionally protected and no society should be required to endure gang activities.

The City of Elgin is one of very few municipalities statewide to use the law to take gang members to civil court -- instead of just fighting criminal cases based on specific criminal activity.

Elgin Police Lt. Jeff Adam of the department's gang and drug unit said his was one of the first Illinois departments to form a gang unit in the 1980s and it has stayed ahead of the curve.

"During that time we've used a lot of creative tools and techniques to combat gangs," Adam said. "Just like the gangs adapt, we have to adapt, too."

The Juarez and Sanchez brothers all claim to have found God, motivating three of them to leave the Latin Kings and encouraging Saul Jaurez to stop his unlawful activity, though all maintain he never was a gang member.

The men do not wish to settle -- like others involved in the lawsuit -- because maintaining contact with gang members now and in the future is a priority. They want to help others find God and pull even more from the clutches of gang membership.

"I truly believe with all of my heart that ministering to gang members and leading them to Christ is a mandate on my life," said Oscar Sanchez in an affidavit submitted with the recent motion by his attorney.

In the affidavit, Sanchez said he joined the gang in 2003 and left it in December 2009. His brother Ruben Sanchez said he joined in 2008 and left in May 2009.

In his affidavit, Elias Juarez said he joined in 2002 and left in August 2008. He said he was in jail more than five times in his life and spent 10 years on probation. After being led to God through attending church services, he turned away from that lifestyle, his affidavit reads.

Patrick Crimmins of the Elgin-based law firm Brady and Jensen declined to comment on the motion filed in the name of the Sanchez and Juarez brothers because it is pending.

The motion to dismiss all four men will be heard Sept. 6 in Kane County Court.;http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2052&

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