Members of the Latin Kings street gang have a motto: “Once a King, Always a King.”
But after almost eight years of litigation, four reputed members of the gang say they’ve proven to a Kane County judge that the motto doesn’t apply to them.
On Wednesday, the judge dismissed a 2010 lawsuit the city of Elgin filed against brothers Elias and Saul Juarez and brothers Ruben and Oscar Sanchez under the Illinois Street Gang Prevention Act.
Judge David Akemann last year denied a request by Elgin for an injunction barring the brothers from congregating with Latin Kings members. But he also refused to order Elgin to pay their attorneys’ fees.
“They say you can’t beat City Hall,” said attorney John Mauck, who represented the Juarez and Sanchez brothers. “They drag things out. But we were very tenacious. We were not going to surrender.”
Saul Juarez says he wasn’t a Latin King, but as teenager he was a Latin Renegades member. He says he became a born-again Christian and persuaded his brother Elias to get out of the Latin Kings in 2008. Ruben and Oscar Sanchez say they ditched the gang in 2009.
Elias Juarez and Oscar Sanchez say they suffered beatings to get out of the Latin Kings.
A five-day trial for the four men was held in January 2017. An Elgin police officer testified that the men were placed in the city’s gang database in July 2010 because they attended the funeral of a slain Latin Kings member.
About three years later, their names were purged from the Elgin gang database when police deemed they were no longer active in the Latin Kings, the officer testified.
But the judge ruled the Juarez and Sanchez brothers weren’t even members of the gang in 2010 when the lawsuit was filed.
“It is not enough that the defendants attended a funeral of a known Latin King,” the judge wrote.
The men say they weren’t gang members at the time of the funeral, but were there simply to pay respects to the victim — a childhood friend.
Dozens of suspected Latin Kings were sued by Elgin in 2010, but the four men were the only ones to have their cases dismissed, officials said.
“In September of 2010 our office sued 81 members of the Elgin Latin Kings street gang seeking to stop them from continuing to harm the city of Elgin with their violent gang activity,” said Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, whose office represented Elgin in the cases.
“Since the suit was filed we have been successful either in obtaining agreements with the individuals to end their relationships with the gang or through the court in ordering the individuals to end their gang activity. We were successful against 77 of the 81 individuals. As a result Elgin is a safer community today,” McMahon said in a statement.
Mauck said he’s now considering an appeal to try to get Elgin to pay his clients’ “six-digit” legal tab.