Two soldiers stationed at Fort Irwin, Captain David Moore and First Sergeant Richard Rivero, were acquitted last week of stabbing a civilian named Ali Joseph III in a fight outside a bar in Barstow, California in April 2011. The case is noteworthy because both soldiers are members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club and according to sources with knowledge of the case, the Department of Defense intended to make examples of them.
Moore and Rivero were charged with assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury and a gang enhancement claiming the felony assault was committed for the benefit of the “Vagos Criminal Street Gang.”
Witnesses at the trial said Joseph became loud and belligerent after Moore spoke to his date. According to the witnesses Joseph told the defendants that he “wasn’t afraid of the Vagos and that he had beaten up a Vago in the past.” Joseph followed the two defendants outside Mollie’s Pub and claimed he was attacked by Moore with a knife and by Rivera who used his fists. Joseph was slashed across the stomach and stabbed in the back.
As is common is cases involving members of motorcycle clubs, the prosecution presented testimony from a “gang expert” named Jeff Moran. Moran is a California Highway Patrol Officer who was featured in a now defunct television called Gangland in an episode about the Vagos called “Snitch Slaughter.”
The two soldiers were represented by Los Angeles attorneys Jeff Voll and Mike Scafiddi. During cross examination by the defenders Joseph admitted to punching Moore and knocking the accused man down. Joseph also admitted that Rivero never stabbed him.
Neither Moore nor Rivero testified. The trial lasted two weeks.
Moore’s attorney, Voll, told the jury in closing arguments that Joseph stabbed himself as he ran from the two men into and along a nearby jagged fence.
The jury found Rivero innocent of both charges last Thursday and found Moore innocent of the gang allegation last Friday.
This week the jury told the judge they were unable to reach verdict on Moore’s assault charge and the case ended in a mistrial. There will be a hearing June 30 on a defense motion to dismiss the case.