New York State's highest court ruled that criminal activity traditionally ascribed to gangs cannot be prosecuted under the anti-terrorism statutes enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the New York Law Journal reports. The Court of Appeals found in its 6-0 decision that prosecutors improperly invoked the anti-terrorism law against Edgar Morales, a member of a street gang known as the St. James Boys, and that by pursuing their terrorism-themed prosecution, they "unduly prejudiced" Morales by tying him to years of criminal activities by other gang members unrelated to the offenses at issue.
The court threw out Morales' conviction for first-degree manslaughter, second-degree attempted murder, weapons possession and conspiracy and ordered a new trial. The court said that while the results of a gang shooting in the case were "tragic," they did not form the basis of a terrorist act. "If we were to apply a broad definition to 'intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population,' the People could invoke the specter of 'terrorism' every time a Blood assaults a Crip or an organized crime family orchestrates the murder of a rival syndicate's soldier," said Judge Victoria Graffeo. "But the concept of terrorism has a unique meaning and its implications risk being trivialized if the terminology is applied loosely in situations that do not match our collective understanding of what constitutes a terrorist act."