OGDEN -- A judge has made permanent a controversial series of restraining orders blocking hundreds of members of a street gang from associating with each other in public within city limits.
In his ruling issued Monday, 2nd District Court Judge Ernie Jones signed the permanent injunction against more than 300 members of the gang, which bans them from "driving, standing, sitting, walking, gathering or appearing together with any known member of Ogden Trece."
The restraining order also prohibits them from possessing weapons, guns, graffiti paraphernalia and establishes a curfew. Violating the restraining order is contempt of court, which carries with it an indeterminate jail sentence and fines.
Lawyers for the alleged gang members had challenged the restraining orders, arguing they infringed upon their First Amendment right to free association. Judge Jones did not address those claims in signing the restraining orders.
"The far reaching effects of this is just absolutely outlandish," said Michael Studebaker, the attorney for many of the alleged gang members.
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith said Monday that the alleged gang members are not protected by the First Amendment.
"The Supreme Court has never said that individuals have the right to associate together to engage in criminal activity," he said. "That's not a constitutional right that's covered by the First Amendment."
FOX 13 was there last year when Ogden police began serving the temporary restraining orders, going house-to-house and handing them to people on a list deemed to be members of the gang. Ogden Metro Gang Unit Lt. Scott Conley said about 350 people had been served.
"This is one tool that we use to apply pressure to them to say, 'We don't want these type of activities taking place. We want our communities to be safe,' " he said Monday.
Studebaker said he was preparing an appeal of the decision to the Utah Supreme Court. He was also contemplating asking the judge to stay the enforcement of the restraining orders, but said that he did not believe that would be successful.
Ogden police said the injunctions have been effective in cutting crime. Conley said violent gang crimes have dropped nearly 12 percent, and graffiti is down about 40 percent within the city. Studebaker challenged those statistics, pointing out that they could not be attributed to one gang.
The injunctions have gotten attention. Other police agencies in Utah have contacted the Ogden Metro Gang Unit about doing something similar in their communities. Ogden got the idea from police agencies in California.
With one gang now living under the restraining orders, Smith told FOX 13 on Monday he has begun looking at going after other gangs with the same legal weapon.
"That's really what we're looking at next. There are a couple of other gangs that have been a problem in this community for a number of years and we're focusing in," he said.