MANATEE — The first man convicted and sentenced for gang-related racketeering in the state will get a new trial in January.
The Second District Court of Appeal in October threw out Eric Santiago’s conviction and 30-year prison sentence after it found that two prior drug-related convictions prosecutors had used to build the racketeering case against him, had been overturned.
Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Smith on Wednesday said the re-trial on charges of racketeering and conspiracy will start Jan. 18.
During gang racketeering cases, investigators use a suspect’s prior criminal convictions to show the offenses were committed to benefit a street gang.
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Santiago, who is a reputed member of the East Side Crips and Brown Pride Locos, met the criteria as gang member by being identified by fellow gang members and being arrested in the presence of other gang members.
“I think it will be stronger,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bill Freel said of the new trial. “We will have more testimony from those involved. This was our first one. Now, we’re really comfortable with the statute and what the law is.”
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office gang investigators have charged 34 gang members from three different local gangs with racketeering. So far, every person charged has been convicted, Freel said.
Detectives have documented Brown Pride Locos gang members as being involved in drug-related activity, robberies and shootings in Bradenton and Palmetto, according to authorities.