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Attorney seeks to exclude gang evidence from Athens murder case

David Rojas Garcia

By Joe Johnson

The attorney for a defendant in the alleged murder last year of a man at an eastside housing complex recently filed a motion to exclude any evidence or trial testimony that his client had gang affiliations.

Although David Rojas Garcia was not indicted for criminal gang activity in the shooting death of Saheed Rakkel Snow at Nellie B Homes, defense attorney Jim Smith states in the motion that he “believes that the state may seek to present evidence of Defendant’s alleged ties to members of alleged street gangs or evidence of his alleged association or involvement in alleged street gangs.”

The motion was filed July 1 in Clarke County Superior Court.

Court documents suggest that Garcia set out the night of June 4, 2008 to sell a handgun to Snow during a meeting at the Nellie B Homes apartment complex in east Athens.

After Snow got into a car with Garcia and his cousin Martin Borja Garcia, 19, of Danielsville, Snow tried to steal the gun and Martin Garcia’s wallet, so David Garcia shot Snow in self-defense.

Martin Borja Garcia

That is the story Garcia, a 23-year-old Hull resident, told an Athens-Clarke County police detective after he was arrested and was charged with Snow’s murder, according to court documents.

However, police said an investigation determined that David Garcia shot Snow during an armed robbery. They would not disclose any evidence that led to both Garcias being charged with malice and felony murder for the 21-year-old victim’s death.

Witnesses told police Snow entered a car occupied by what appeared to be two Hispanic males. The witnesses said Snow was shot while inside the car and one of the occupants pulled him out and left him lying in the parking lot, according to police.

In his motion on David Garcia’s behalf, Smith noted that since his client was not indicted for violating the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism Prevention Act, "evidence of a defendant’s gang affiliation is highly prejudicial.”

Under state law a person can only be charged under the gang statute if they committed an offense that, among other things, was in furtherance of the gang’s interests, was committed at the gang’s direction or elevated the offender’s status within the gang.

Western Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge H. Patrick Haggard has yet to rule on David Garcia’s motion and a trial date for the Madison County cousins has yet to be scheduled.

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