- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The trial of suspected gang members facing racketeering charges in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt related to murders, rapes and assaults continued yesterday with a female witness testifying with her back to the court to attempt to protect her identity.

During five hours of testimony, Emilia Masaya, 31, a gang member, turned only when asked to identify the defendants.

Jose Cruz “Piranha” Diaz, 27, of Lanham; Omar “Duke” Vasquez, 28; and Henry “Homeboy” Zelaya, 20, are on trial for racketeering charges.

They face possible life imprisonment if convicted and are among 22 reputed gang members indicted in August 2005 on conspiracy, racketeering, assault with deadly weapons and killing of six persons. Eleven defendants have pleaded guilty or been found guilty. Two were found guilty in November. All await sentencing. The trial is in its third week and is expected to last eight weeks.

Masaya has admitted to participating in a gang-related stabbing and entered a plea agreement in which she was expected to serve 10 years, according to a 2006 news story.

Masaya did not directly link the defendants to crimes but answered questions that associated them with gang activity. She said she joined the MS-13 on July 7, 2003, and allowed members to beat her for 13 seconds, a part of her initiation.

Masaya testified about attending gang meetings and parties and visiting members in jail, including Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Zelaya.

She is expected to return to court today for cross examination.

Prince George’s County Police Lt. Mike Straugh and Montgomery County Police Detective Paula Hamill testified earlier in the day. They described investigating the Nov. 22, 2003, murders of Randy Calderon. The 15-year-old was shot in the head in Hyattsville, and Eliuth Madrigal, 26, was stabbed repeatedly north of Rockville.

Masaya said she and other members talked days or weeks later to Detective Hamill but lied to her. Masaya was indicted in April 2006 for giving the false testimony, according the Justice Department.

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