Trial begins for MS-13 gang


The trial of two men charged with sexually initiating a 17-year-old Manassas girl into the MS-13 gang in August 2002 started Tuesday in Prince William Circuit Court.

Jose Adolfo Rivas Santa Maria, 23, and Jose Alberto Navarette-Ramos, 23, of 11220 Soldiers Ridge Court Apt. 202, Manassas, are each charged with participation in a criminal street gang and recruitment of a juvenile into a criminal street gang. Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“There is no doubt something terrible happened [to the victim],” said Tracey A. Lenox, defense attorney for Rivas. “A lot of alcohol was involved. I suggest my client wasn’t there, wasn’t involved.”

“Mr. Navarette-Ramos indicates while he had previous involvement [in MS-13] he was not involved for the past two years,” Margaret M. DeWilde, Navarette-Ramos’ defense attorney said.

The prosecution’s first witness was the victim, who described how she met the men and the party she attended in Coverstone where she said the initiation occurred. The girl was picked up by a friend she met a few days before the party.

She described about ten men and two girls at the apartment. The men questioned her about joining MS-13, she said. She told them she was having problems at home and would have to move out when she turned 18. One of the men, “Perverso,” told her she could live with them in the apartment if she joined the gang, she said.

Perverso told her there were two ways of joining: jumping in or sexing in, the victim said. She declined jumping in, which entailed a 13-second beating. She had sex with five of the men, including Rivas and Navarette-Ramos, for five minutes each, she said.

“[Afterwards] I sit down in a chair and start thinking about what I did, I start feeling bad about myself,” the girl said. “I start to regret what I did.”

When she got home early the next morning, the victim called Prince William police.

Three other men charged in the incident have pleaded guilty to recruitment of a juvenile into a criminal street gang. Reyes Antonio Avila-Villalta, 22, of Manassas, also pleaded guilty to participation in a criminal gang in March. Alfonso Oscar, 26, and Jose Gerardo Hercules-Pineda, 23, both of Manassas, pleaded guilty to recruitment of a juvenile in January.

Thomas Sullivan, an intelligence analyst with Prince William police also testified Tuesday. He has studied gangs in the county since 1994, and qualified as an expert witness on the subject. Sullivan estimated there were 100 to 110 MS-13 gang members in the county. MS-13 stands for Mara Salvatrucha, meaning “gang of El Salvador,” “ruffians” or “bad boys” Sullivan said.

Sullivan discussed MS-13 signs, tattoos, history and graffiti in his testimony. He said that while Fairfax county has had one MS-13 related homicide, Prince William has seen only malicious woundings, robberies, simple assaults and firearms violations related to the gang.

Rivas and Navarette-Ramos trial is scheduled to conclude Tuesday afternoon.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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