After sunset in November 2017, Santa Ana Police Department Gang Suppression Unit officers noticed a black Lexus without a license plate and one busted headlight traveling in the opposition direction in what they call a heavy drug sales area. The cops made a quick u-turn, activated their emergency sirens and lights, but the lone male in the Lexus accelerated to a high rate of speed. After a mile, the suspect ditched the car, ran down a residential alley and found himself tackled and handcuffed.
Jesus Angel Lopez—a veteran drug dealer with convictions in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013—possessed several baggies containing more than 137 grams of heroin, $5,938 in cash and a loaded 9 mm silver and black Taurus semi-automatic handgun with 14 bullets.
In seeking a whopping 175-month prison sentence, federal prosecutors in Orange County explained Lopez—who grew up in a drug-infested Garden Grove neighborhood with parents who worked three jobs each, dropped out of high school and once worked at a Disneyland restaurant—is a chronic recidivist.
“The defendant is a dangerous man,” according to Assistant United States Attorney Paul C. LeBlanc. “His criminal conduct resulting in this indictment is consistent with his lifelong disregard for the law. His drug dealing is not a one-time event but a life-long pattern of behavior.”
But Lopez’s defense attorney label the proposed punishment “draconian,” suggested a term of no more than 120 months and urged professional substance abuse treatment for the father of three children as a priority because of his client’s numerous drug addictions.
Inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton ruled the appropriate prison sentence is 151 months.
Staton also ordered Lopez not only to avoid members of the “Indoe Habits criminal street gang,” but also to stop wearing or possessing any of that gang’s symbols.
The defendant, who was born in 1988, is contesting his punishment to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.