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Prince George's County prosecutors secure county's first conviction on gang charge

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Local,DC,Maryland,Crime,Naomi Jagoda,Prince Georges County

For the first time, there has been a conviction in Prince George's County Circuit Court on the charge of participation in a criminal gang, officials said.

Wilfredo Rosales, 20, of Northeast D.C., was convicted late last week on the gang charge as well as a charge of retaliation for testimony, according to the Prince George's County state's attorney's office. This is only the second time that there has been a guilty verdict in Maryland on the state gang charge, which went on the books in October 2007.

Rosales has been identified by prosecutors as a member of MS-13, a violent street gang whose members have been behind a number of crimes in the D.C. area. His convictions relate to the 2012 confrontation of a former active MS-13 member.

The victim, a 28-year-old man, renounced his gang membership when he testified against three MS-13 members in a federal trial in the District in 2010. All three of the defendants in that case were convicted for their roles in a series of crimes that included an April 2007 murder in Columbia Heights. They were sentenced to life in prison plus additional time, prosecutors said.

MS-13 rules prohibit cooperation with law enforcement. As a result of his testimony, prosecutors said, the victim knew that he could be killed for working with the government.

On Sept. 26, 2012, the victim was in a park in Langley Park when he saw Rosales. Officials said that the victim had been assigned to prepare Rosales to join MS-13 in 2007.

Rosales and other men confronted the victim and asked if the victim was the person they were seeking. In response, according to prosecutors, the victim denied knowing what the group was talking about.

After the victim refused to identify himself, the group pushed him to the ground, stabbed him and took his money. The victim said during trial that Rosales was not the person who stabbed him, and Rosales was acquitted of assault, robbery and theft charges, officials said.

Rosales is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26 and faces up to 30 years in prison.

His lawyer, Lonny Bramzon, said that Rosales has never admitted to police that he is an MS-13 member. He also criticized the gang statute, saying that it punishes people for their associations when other statutes are sufficient to convict people for crimes.

"The gang statute does not make communities safer," Bramzon said. "It merely creates a scarlet letter for one to carry the rest of his or her life."

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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