A Kane County judge Friday declined to remove four men from a lawsuit by Elgin against some 81 members of the Latin Kings street gang, prohibiting members from congregating or associating with each other.
Elgin residents Elias Juarez, Saul Juarez, Oscar Sanchez and Ruben Sanchez say they are no longer in the gang and that an injunction against them gathering would stop them from visiting churches on the weekends to talk to youths and current gang members about the dangers of gangs and benefits of their newfound faith.
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"It was Elias who got Ruben and Oscar out of the gang," argued defense attorney Lee McCoy, noting that Saul Juarez never joined the gang and no longer associates with members. "These men are wanting to reach kids in their community."
In October 2010, then-Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti and Elgin sued the gang under the Illinois Street Gang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act.
At least 30 defendants have settled the case, agreeing they won't contact or associate with other members.
There are no restrictions currently in place on McCoy's four clients. They want need the ability to contact other gang members to persuade them to leave a life of crime and follow Christ.
Patrick Crimmins, an attorney appointed by the state's attorney's office to handle the case, argued that the four men are still in gangs and even if there was an injunction issued it could be tweaked to allow them to speak at churches and other venues and preserve their religious freedom.
"The bottom line is we have to always be mindful of the fact that these things can be manipulated (to say people have found religion)," Crimmins said. "They can exercise their religious freedom anywhere, but as it relates to the association of gang members, they can't do it in the city of Elgin or county of Kane."
In denying McCoy's motion to remove the four men from the suit, Judge Thomas Mueller said they could try again as more evidence in the case becomes available. But a defendant simply denying an allegation isn't enough reason right now, he said.
"It's not that simple," Mueller said.
Both sides are due in court on Feb. 24.