Another of the 16 gangmembers indicted for a host of crimes as serious as murder in a sweep known as “Operation Sunny Day” is back in San Mateo County custody.
Ralph Vernon Fields Jr., 26, of East Palo Alto, made his first court appearance Friday on charges of recklessly discharging a firearm, possession of a concealable weapon by an active gangmember and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Fields was indicted along with 15 others in March but at the time was being held by Santa Clara County on unrelated criminal charges.
Fields is charged in a Sept. 24, 2012, drive-by shooting in East Palo Alto that began the stretch of crimes covered in the sweeping indictment through December 2013, said prosecutor Morris Maya.
He went into custody in Santa Clara County shortly after, which might be why he wasn’t involved in any of the other crimes, Maya theorized.
Fields belongs to the Sac Street gang which teamed up with fellow East Palo Alto gang Da Vill against the Taliban gang. The war between the two sides led to the 18-month investigation, nicknamed “Operation Sunny Day” in reference to the code term used by gangmembers to indicate a completed murder. After two months, a criminal grand jury returned indictments for crimes including four murders in East Palo Alto and San Francisco, a highway shooting in Belmont, a robbery and attempting to keep witnesses quiet. Other charged crimes include drug trafficking, bribery, firearms possession and conspiracy.
Others indicted are Raymond Bradford, 28, of East Palo Alto; Ralph Vernon Fields Jr., 26, of East Palo Alto; Tyrone Love-Lopez, 21, of East Palo Alto; Eric Valencia Vargas, 20, of East Palo Alto; Marvin Jake Ware, 26, of East Palo Alto, Donte Demon Jordan, 19, of East Palo Alto; Roshawn Bickham, 25 of Hayward; LaQuisha Walker, 28, of East Palo Alto; Leonard James Gaines, 21, of East Palo Alto; Rodney Levence Mitchell, 22, of Newark; Robert Wheller Jr., 26, of Hayward; Jerry Coneal III, 19, of Menlo Park, Miguel Angel Rivera Jr., 23, of East Palo Alto, Nina Mehrnoosh Cragg, 23, of Palo Alto; Roberto Busto-Montes, 24, of East Palo Alto; and Emmanuel Hyland, 25, of East Palo Alto.
In June, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced he would not seek death for Cragg, Busto-Montes and Hyland but has yet to decide on nine others charged with murder plus special gang circumstances that make them death penalty-eligible.
All defendants are due back in court Aug. 18 for a hearing on a defense motion to seal the grand jury transcripts and to enter Superior Court pleas.
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