Gang leader ordered to stand trial

December 8, 2008 2:01:37 PM PST
A judge ruled today that there's sufficient evidence for the reputed leader of Oakland's worst drug gang to stand trial on attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting a member of a rival gang at 31st Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way on June 30, 2006.

At the end of a preliminary hearing that stretched over three weeks, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vernon Nakahara also ordered 34-year-old Marc Anthony Candler of Castro Valley, the reputed leader of the Acorn gang, to stand trial on a street terrorism clause, possession of assault weapons and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

In addition, Nakahara ordered co-defendant Elijah Thomas, 24, to stand trial for attempted murder with a street terrorism clause for allegedly joining Candler in shooting the alleged victim in the incident, who reputedly was a member of the rival Ghost Town gang.

Authorities asked that the alleged victim's name not be published. According to court records, the alleged victim is 27 years old, uses several different aliases and has been convicted of felony charges of burglary and receiving stolen property as well as a parole violation for beating up his girlfriend.

Nakahara also ordered Candler's girlfriend, April Williams, to stand trial on felony possession of a firearm and misdemeanor counts of having a concealed firearm and a loaded firearm, for allegedly stashing some of Candler's weapons at a home in the 1300 block of C Street in Hayward where she lived with her mother.

Williams, who is free on $75,000 bail, drew a tongue-lashing from Nakahara when she arrived 25 minutes late for today's hearing.

The judge told Williams he didn't want to hear any excuses "unless you had a brain hemorrhage or a heart attack" and said he would revoke her bail if she shows up late again.

Candler and Thomas are being held in the county jail.

Defense attorneys James Giller, who represents Candler, and Frank Lang, who represents Thomas, both told Nakahara today that they think the prosecution's case is weak because the witnesses in the case, including the alleged victim, retracted their statements to police in which they identified Candler and Thomas as the shooters in the incident.

Giller asked, "Who do you believe? Do you just say they were lying to you here in court and committing perjury?"

But prosecutor John Brouhard said a reasonable interpretation is that the witnesses denied that they had identified Candler and Thomas as the shooters because they are fearful.

One witness in the case testified that she received two threatening text messages during the hearing.

Candler was one of 54 suspected members of the Acorn gang who were arrested June 17 in a massive raid conducted by 400 officers from 17 law enforcement agencies. Police said 41 guns were confiscated in the raid.

The raids were the culmination of a three-month effort called "Operation Nutcracker" in reference to the name of the Acorn gang, whose base of operations is the Acorn Housing complex in West Oakland.

In announcing the arrests, Oakland police Lt. Ersie Joyner said the Acorn group is "the most violent gang we've seen in a long time."

Joyner said Candler was born and raised in East Oakland but at the age of 14 moved to the Acorn project and began to "flex his power."

Joyner said Candler was involved in dealing drugs and "got people to follow and idolize him and built a reputation."

A news release issued by California Attorney General Jerry Brown said Candler "has been a prolific drug trafficker in Oakland and Detroit, been shot several times and is suspected to be responsible for homicide and a number of shootings."

Another alleged Acorn gang member who was arrested in the raid was William Lovan, a 27-year-old meter repairman for the city of Oakland who is the nephew of former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums fired Edgerly on July 1 amid allegations that she attempted to interfere with Oakland police on June 7 when they towed Lovan's car from a spot next to a West Oakland liquor store because he had a gun inside.

A police report on that incident describes a conversation between Lovan and Candler.

Lovan is charged with carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle and carrying an unregistered loaded weapon and is awaiting a preliminary hearing on those charges.

Candler, Thomas and Williams are scheduled to return to court Dec. 23 to be arraigned.


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