SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday blocked parole for a former Mexican Mafia prison gang leader, saying he remains a danger to society despite efforts to turn his life around and years of co-operating with law enforcement.
For the third time in as many years, Brown reversed a state parole panel decision that Rene "Boxer" Enriquez should be freed from jail.
Enriquez has been in prison since 1993, serving a sentence of 20 years to life for two murders, multiple assaults and drug trafficking conspiracy.
Enriquez is not expected to be eligible for another parole hearing for more than a year, said Laura Sheppard, his lawyer.
"I think he's absolutely deserving of parole. If I didn't, I wouldn't be representing him," Sheppard said. "I think he's no danger to society."
In his parole release review, Brown wrote that Enrique joined the Mexican Mafia in 1985 while serving time for rape and armed robbery. For nearly two decades while in and out of prison, Enriquez bolstered his reputation in the gang through murder, drug-running and terror, the governor wrote.
He killed two gang associates for violations such as stealing drugs and money. He and another man also stabbed Mexican Mafia leader Salvador "Mon" Buenrostro 26 times with inmate-made weapons in a 1991 gangland dispute, though Buenrostro survived.
However, Enriquez has said he quit the gang in 2002 when he realized members were killing children and innocent relatives of gang members who fell into disfavour.
Enriquez has been co-operating with authorities for 15 years, providing information and testifying against the gang. During previous parole consideration, he received dozens letters of support from the FBI, local law enforcement officials, and state and federal prosecutors.
"The DA offices of three different counties are supporting his parole," his attorney said.
Brown acknowledged that Enriquez has become a model prisoner and commended him for efforts to turn his life around.
But the governor also wrote that the former gang member has been personally responsible for "an immeasurable amount of death and destruction."
He only recently alleged that his path of violence was prompted by childhood physical and sexual abuse by family members. However, Brown wrote that the explanation didn't explain his "single-minded pursuit of violence and control."
"I still do not believe that he has shown an adequate understanding of why he was so willing to devote himself to brutality and gang leadership," Brown wrote.
The governor also noted that Enriquez is still considered an enemy of the Mexican Mafia, implying there could be attempts to kill him that would put his family, parole agents and the community where he might live at risk, Brown wrote.
Enriquez said last year that he would enter a witness protection program if he is released.
But Brown argued that there currently was no plan in place that would mitigate the serious risks posed by his release.