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‘Justice 8’ Preliminary Hearing Continues: Edin Enamorado’s Attorney Points Out Holes In Allegations Against Activists

11:26 AM PST on January 4, 2024

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Despite rain and freezing temperatures, supporters and family members of The Justice 8 showed up to the Victorville Superior Courthouse on Wednesday morning to show their support for the activists, who stand accused of allegedly engaging in violent acts at two demonstrations that took place this past September of 2023.

The eight activists, who were arrested by The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department three weeks ago today and denied bail, were all present in court for their preliminary hearing. This included Gullit “Jaguar” Acevedo, who was the only defendant released on bail last week, and Wendy Lujan, who was previously quarantined due to exposure to COVID. 

At the last court hearing, San Bernardino Deputy District Attorney Jason Wilkinson presented details regarding two incidents involving the group, one on September 3rd and the other on September 24th, stemming from a protest over video showing a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy allegedly using excessive force on a teenage girl.

On Wednesday at approximately 9:51 A.M., Detective Travis Johnson of the Pomona Police Department was the first witness to take the stand for cross-examination.

For the last four months, Johnson has led the investigation regarding two separate incidents on September 3rd, which took place in Pomona and involved a John Doe #1 and John Doe #2. 

Johnson relayed information gathered solely from interviews conducted with Doe#1. Johnson referenced Doe #1's statement that Enamorado yelled racist slurs and threatened him.

Defense attorney Nicholas Rosenberg then presented videos that showed part of the altercation with Doe #1 and asked Detective Johnson if he heard any of those alleged racial slurs or threats from Enamorado in those videos or whether he heard corroboration of any allegations that Doe #1 made about the defendant in the videos, to which he responded “No.” 

The videos presented in court showed multiple angles of the altercation with Doe #1. They included an incident between Doe #1 and several street vendors and an incident inside of an El Super grocery market. That latter location is where Doe #1 says he was repeatedly beaten, according to the detective.

Johnson was also asked in court if he had reviewed all videos or evidence obtained regarding the incident before testifying. To which he said, "No."

He was also asked if he reviewed any of the videos he had watched with John Doe #1 to identify whether the videos corroborated Doe's statements when interviewing him about what happened the day of the demonstration. Detective Johnson responded: “No, I didn’t.”

The detective was also asked if he, or anyone else involved in the investigation, had interviewed anyone other than Doe #1 and Doe #2, seeing as there were multiple customers and employees present at the El Super during the alleged incident involving Doe #1 in Pomona.

To which Detective Johnson said: “Doe #1 and #2 were the only people they spoke with. No other officers spoke to anyone else.”

Regarding the September 3rd incident involving John Doe #2, Detective Johnson testified that the Pomona Police Department had to close completely due to protestors blocking certain entrances following the arrest of Wendy Lujan that day.

However, after being cross-examined by Attorney Rosenberg and other attorneys present, it was determined that the department lobby was already closed before the demonstration took place, due to it being Labor Day Weekend.

Video was also shown then of the altercation between Doe #1 and the street vendors, whom Doe # 1 had verbally attacked before his altercation with Enamorado.

The detective was also asked if he could identify all defendants in the videos shown, to which he said, "No, not all."

Supporters of the Justice 8 activists were widely upset when hearing Detective Johnson say that many of the accusations were not investigated and that the detective solely relied on the statements of both Doe #1 and Doe #2.

On the other hand, families and supporters of the activists felt validated, since many of them are already speculating that there is not enough proof of the accusations being made against some of the activists.

“I feel good about how today went because the detective on the case proved today that he doesn't really have any evidence that proves the allegations made by John Doe#1,” said Edin Enamorado’s cousin, James. “I know it’s not over, but today made us feel a little better. We’re hoping people keep supporting all of the Justice 8 so they can be out soon.”

In the last 30 minutes of the hearing, a second witness, Pomona police officer Edgar Rodriguez, who responded to the initial call at El Super, was called to the stand. Due to limited time, few details could be shared regarding his involvement and testimony regarding the Pomona incident.

Photo by: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.Information regarding fundraisers and where to donate to each of the Justice 8.
Document provided by Jacqueline Orozco

Acevedo, the only activist granted bail last week, was also in court with his family. According to Jaqueline Orozco, a parent of one of Acevedo’s students who was present at Wednesday's hearing, the educator and longtime activist was fired from his position as a middle school history teacher at Hardy Brown College Prep.

“He got fired,“ Orozco said outside the court. "He worked at a school that is built on teaching the kids to stand up for their rights and always speak up, and for the school to darle la espalda (give their back to him), that's not right. Jaguar is the only one who got bail. That has to count for something. He was not considered a threat to society. He’s not a threat to children. So why fire him? The only thing they told the students was that he was not coming back.”

Orozco said that on January 1st, parents received an email from Hardy Brown College Prep's principal stating that Acevedo would no longer be part of Hardy Brown and that a new teacher would replace him. No other explanations for his removal were given.

Orozco said that when her daughter walked into her class on Tuesday, some of Acevedo's belongings remained in his classroom. 

“It hurts because he goes above and beyond," she said while holding back tears. "We don’t see him as just a teacher. We see him like family. She (her daughter) was out of school for three weeks due to medical reasons, and he was there through it all. Not even the principal reached out to see what happened, but (Acevedo) went out of his way to call the hospital to talk to her.”

“He isn't just a teacher to me,” added Orozco’s daughter, speaking in a soft voice outside the courtroom. “He’s helped me out a lot. He will always have a big place in my heart, and if anything happens, I’m here for him because he deserves it. He deserves the support.”

Orozco told us that a year prior, a different teacher was fighting charges alleging sexual misconduct with a student and was allowed to remain teaching while he fought his case. This left them puzzled as to why Acevedo was fired, seeing as his charges did not involve any kind of threat to children. 

L.A. TACO reached out to both Hardy Brown College School Prep and Fortune School for a statement regarding the termination of Acevedo and other allegations but has yet to receive a response. 

As for the rest of the activists, their families continue to ask the public for support and donations for legal fees. Enamorado’s attorney also called for action yesterday after the hearing, requesting that people email him any video regarding the Victorville incident.

He also mentioned his plans to dispute 15 of the charges that Enamorado is currently facing, due to the alleged incidents happening outside of Victorville. 

Court resumed this morning, and the preliminary hearing is set to possibly continue through next Monday.

Attorneys representing the activists said that after the preliminary hearing, they hope to once again request bail for the seven activists who remain in custody. 

Videos involving the incident in Victorville are encouraged to be sent to rosenberg.nicholas@gmail.com

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