San Mateo County: Social Media a Factor in 16 Indictments in The Sunny Day 2012 Gang Murders (CA Penal Code 186.22(a), 186.22(b) and 190.2)

A grand jury in San Mateo County has handed down 16 indictments in the ‘Sunny Day’ gang-related slayings that occurred in 2012.  So, what makes this case different than other crimes of its kind?  Social media outlets were a large part of local law enforcement officials’ means of determining exactly who was involved.

In this current age, one where Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are much a part of nearly everyone’s life, it seems that those seeking to break the law have broken a cardinal rule, they advertised their actions for all to see.  True, the investigation that led to these arrests lasted for over a year and included other means of surveillance (wire taps, search warrants, and cellular phone tracking), but the case may never have been cracked if a special code (“It’s a sunny day in East Palo Alto”) hadn’t been used to alert others to who was responsible.

Law enforcement officials say that at least 3 different gangs were involved in the ‘Sunny Day’ series of crimes, Sac Street, the Taliban, and Da Vill.  These are all gangs operating in the area of East Palo Alto commonly referred to as the ‘Village.’  At least 4 people were killed and 9 different gang members have been charged with murder with special enhancements. 

Enhancements in a murder case can mean a significant difference when it comes to sentencing; these are all related to the “STEP” Act (California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (CA Penal Code 186.22(a) and 186.22(b)).  The former could mean up to an additional 3 years in state prison, while the latter could mean you face up to 25-years-to-life.  Additionally, special circumstances charges (CA Penal Code 190.2) of ‘lying in wait’ have been tacked on to each of the 9 individuals’ charges.  This alone could mean life in prison or the death penalty.