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San Jose Goes After Suspected Sideshow Social Media Organizers

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A Santa Clara County judge has granted a preliminary injunction against two defendants accused of "aiding and abetting" sideshows via social media postings.

"The injunction prohibits the defendants from posting on social media or disseminating, by any means, locations in San Jose for the purpose of conducting sideshows, engaging in exhibitions of speed or reckless driving. The injunction also prohibits the defendants from participating in exhibitions of speed and reckless driving and blocking public roadways to facilitate exhibitions of speed and public roadways in San Jose," said Nora Frimann, city attorney for San Jose.

In August, the city of San Jose filed a civil suit against Elijah Devon Moore and Luis Felipa Garcia, accusing the two of public nuisance, civil conspiracy, and willful misconduct.

According to the complaint, Moore operated the Instagram account sj_takeovers, Garcia operated SJBoss. The complaint also named two additional Instagram users, movimento accelerado and bayareaflicks.

The 13-page complaint covers the past 10 months of sideshows in San Jose and corresponding social media activity, and reveals the challenge of policing sideshows.

According to the lawsuit, "On June 20, 2021, at approximately 9:00 p.m., SJBoss posted a video showing a parking lot at the West Capitol Expressway address full of vehicles with the caption 'Pull Up (with eye emojis) @bayareaflicks,' referencing the post made by bayareaflicks. On information and belief, Defendant LUIS FELIPE GARCIA as SJBoss has previously posted meet-up information for illegal street racing at this location."

Connecting Garcia to the SJBoss account proved to be easy, since "Defendant Garcia was wearing a shirt that had the words 'SJBoss' written on the front. Defendant GARCIA admitted that the wording on his shirt referred to his Instagram account," according to suit.

Timothy Burke, Garcia's attorney, argued via teleconference, "At most he encouraged people to meet in a parking lot. It's not illegal in the United States to gather."

"All he did was post a video. There's no illegal activity here. This is completely outrageous," Burke added.

As for connecting Moore to sj_takeovers, "a distinctively painted Lexus registered to him" appeared in a YouTube video, according to the complaint.

The suit stated: "Based on the YouTube video and other evidence gathered on December 12 and 13, San Jose Police seized the Lexus registered to Defendant ELIJAH MOORE in the driveway of his residence in San Jose on the morning of December 14, 2020. Later on December 14, photos of the Lexus being impounded were posted on lnstagram by sj_takeovers."

Gabriel Rodriguez, Deputy City Attorney for the city of San Jose, told the judge the injunction was part of "multi-pronged approach, meant to help the city catch its breath and stem these activities that take away resources from other police calls."

Regarding the months of social media posts, "The context is clear and the intent is clear," Rodriguez said.

Moore represented himself in court but he first went to the wrong courthouse and arrived late to the hearing. Moore appeared confused about how investigators connected him to sj_takeovers and the sideshow activity.

Outside the courthouse, Moore maintained his innocence, describing the ordeal as "crazy" and that police could not prove he was connected to the Instagram account.

When asked if he could communicate with the purported owner of the sj_takeovers account, Moore responded, "What can I do? I could send him a DM and be, like, 'Hey stop?' He doesn't care."

The civil case now moves forward with a case management conference scheduled for Jan. 11, 2022. If the city prevails, Moore and Garcia could be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

"The City is seeking civil penalties in the amount of $2,500 for each violation of the San Jose Municipal Code, as well as recovery of the costs of detecting, investigating and abating the violation(s), punitive damages and attorneys fees and costs pursuant to the San Jose Municipal Code. We do not have an estimated dollar amount at this time," city attorney Frimann said.

Councilmember Maya Esparza co-authored the city ordinances which make it illegal to watch sideshows and also makes it illegal to promote or encourage sideshows through social media. San Jose is believed to be the first in the nation to enact such laws and Esparza said other cities are likely following the developments of this civil suit closely.

"I would expect other cities to look at this because they're just as frustrated as we are. We have the most thinly-staffed police force of any major city in the U.S. so we have to be smart about how we use all of our resources," Esparza said. "The message is, don't come to San Jose. We're not here for you. We don't want sideshows in San Jose."


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