A basic, if increasingly tortured, concept in American law is mens rea which is usually translated from Latin as “guilty mind.” It refers to the state of mind that accompanies a criminal act.
Mens rea doesn’t matter in crimes which are called malum prohibitum, which are crimes that are arbitrarily illegal like possessing prohibited drugs. But state of mind is an important component in crimes that are called malum in se, which are crimes like murder that are wrong in and of themselves. Mens rea is most important is legal defenses like self-defense so the state of mind of a man who kills another man is as important as the act of homicide.
Mens rea is the key element in deciding whether the death of Black Pistons member Zach Tipton in Jacksonville Beach, Florida last June was a criminal or an innocent act.
A week after Tipton died of a gunshot wound to the head John Whitfield, a small town lawyer and high ranking member of the Iron Order Motorcycle Club, proclaimed the homicide to be a clear case of self defense so it might be constructive to look at exactly what “self defense” means.
The essential elements of self defense are:
First that the defendant must be free from fault, must not say or do anything for the purpose of provoking a difficulty, nor be unmindful of the consequences in this respect to any wrongful word or act.
Second, in general, there must be no convenient mode of escape by retreat or by declining combat. This second precept doesn’t apply in Florida which passed a specific law, called the “Stand Your Ground” law, that does not compel a person claiming self defense to try to escape.
The Florida statute reads in part: “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.”
The language of the statute above shouldn’t be misconstrued. Stand your ground is not a license to kill. In general deadly force may only be used when it is necessary to meet an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. It is not, for example, usually reasonable to use deadly force after somebody has punched you in the nose. In the most highly publicized stand your ground case so far, George Zimmerman argued that he shot Trayvon Martin because the teenager was beating his head against a sidewalk and Zimmerman thought his life was in danger.
The IOMC, AOL And BP
Most of the details about Tipton’s death have been hidden from public view, including the injuries the anonymous shooter suffered or the circumstances that led him to believe his life was in danger. Police believed the Iron Order shooter was innocent of murder because he had an innocent mind. And, at this point, three months after the murder, it is impossible to accurately determine what the shooter’s state of mind was when he pulled the trigger because he has had months to polish his alibi. But it his possible to examine the context within which he pulled the trigger by looking at some of what his Iron Order club brothers were saying immediately before and after the shooting.
One place to begin is with an unsigned Iron Order Motorcycle Club directive titled “One Percenter Club Patches and IOMC Relationship” which describes the Iron Order’s relationship with the Black Piston and the club the Black Pistons most famously support. In regards to the Black Pistons, the directive specifically instructs club members to not “take any BS from them or we will lose respect in the biker community.” The entries read:
“Outlaws MC – this club has been an adversary since day one with the IOMC. They have constantly been a challenge about territory and what they have said is ‘disrespect’ because we do not comply to protocol and do not ask them permission to do anything. Caution should always be taken whenever there is an Outlaw around. Do not ignore them and do not say anything negative to anyone outside of the IOMC about them. If they outnumber you it is best to leave in a nonaggressive way showing no fear. If they come up to you, offer to shake their hand and use a proper introduction for an MC. That means you say your name, your office and Iron Order MC. He will do the same. They spin all encounters or statements and lie to meet whatever goals they want. Never trust them to be truthful. If the OL starts intimidation tactics by asking, ‘Who the fuck are you guys?’ or ‘Who gave you permission to wear those colors’ etc. you need to refer them to your President or Regional Director. They only fight if they outnumber you or have no chance of losing a fight.”
“Black Pistons – a sub club to the Outlaws MC. They were formed in 2002 in Germany. They are owned by the OLs and now wear state bottom rockers. They do whatever the OL’s tell them. They are not a credible club and have no respect in the MC world. We cannot ever show fear or listen to any bullshit from these morons. The OL’s will not back them up. However most Pistons believe the OL’s will. They generally do not fight but will if they have to. They must check with the OL’s before they do anything. Do not confront them but do not show any fear. Whenever there is a bust of the OL’s or other Pistons they generally throw in their colors. These are guys that want to hang around with the OL’s but do not want to be 1%ers so they tend to be wannabes. Don’t take any BS from them or we will lose respect in the biker community.”
It also seems likely that the shooter was aware of a fight between members of the Iron Order and members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club in Spokane less than two weeks before Tipton was killed. The incident took place on June 14. On June 17, a club officer named Alex “40Cal” Libori wrote the email transcribed below. Libori’s recitation of his version of events and his tone also point to the state of mind of the Jacksonville Beach shooter the next week.
“Brothers, pay careful attention to this email. Make sure it is discussed with each other ASAP. On Saturday night/Sunday morning the Eastside Crew (in Spokane) had an altercation with the Mongols. For some time now there have been rumors of the Eastside 1%er clubs forming a truce to rid the area of any IO presence. On this night the Mongols went directly to the ESC (East Side Crew) clubhouse to talk shit. Not only did they blatantly disrespect the chapter but they disrespected the entire nation. They posted up across the way to continue to talk shit. A few good brothers proudly walked over to address the situation. There are other details here that I will not go into because it can best be told by the brothers that were actually there, but brother Hallmark showing true understanding for his position as Sergeant at Arms stood tall. Regardless of who was around (including police presence) he took on the chapter president. Hallmark took his hits like a man and then laid this fucker out and put him on the ground sending a clear message that we will not eat shit. When all was said and done that mother fucker will know that this chapter will not back down.
“Few things you need to be aware of.
“This is far from over. This is just the beginning. Mongols are really good about recruiting people that do not even know how to ride motorcycles. It can be anyone, anywhere, at any time. Shit just got real.
“So if you have an ounce of doubt, do us all a favor and walk away right now. If you care for your brothers then avoid anyone getting hurt because you second guessed what action you should have taken.
“When dealing with opposition you have no one but you and your manhood. This night, the police stood around and watched everything happen. There was no time to make calls and wait for the masses to show up. If you are in a similar situation are you going to be like Hallmark and stand tall, or will you back down and tell stories later? Enough with the ‘if I was there I would have…’ bullshit.
“Either you are there or you are not.
“All SAAs need to do their homework on what is going on in their area and communicate it to their chapters. Know your roles. If you are an SAA your #1 priority is the safety of your President then the chapter. But it is the responsibility of every member to do the same.
“Start showing more respect for your brothers. This is the time that everyone should be dropping all the bullshit drama and organizing trips to Spokane to show numbers. If there is a chapter even, then get off your asses and show each area that there are a lot more of us than there are of them. And this is not a weekend thing. If you have to throw punches then fucking prove it. I cannot say enough about Hallmark. I have never heard him ‘talk the talk’ because that is not the type of man he is, but Goddamnit he walked the walk that night. He stared the opposition in the eyes and when it was apparent there was no civil way of dealing with the problem he charged and handled business with a man who’s reputation is bigger the man himself. To quote Yard ‘Hallmark,
when you care to send the very best.’”
Finally, it is worth noting what Iron Order International President Ray “Izod” Lubesky was saying after the murder. Lubesky spent most of his adult life as a fast food executive and he reacted to the Tipton myrder as if someone in Florida had just found a dead mouse in his French fries. He sees Tipton’s death as a “public relations crisis” rather than as a criminal act.
This is what Lubesky told his club members on July 6. At the time, Lubesky and members of his club were very offended by The Aging Rebel’s coverage of Tipton’s murder, particularly by this page’s categorization of the homicide as a “murder.” What is most interesting is not that Lubesky disapproves of this site’s coverage but that he encourages members of his “law abiding motorcycle club” to keep quiet about what they know about Tipton’s death. And, as is also always the case with the Iron Order Motorcycle Club, one may be awed by how much club officers and members are willing to commit to writing.
“The link below is to a podcast from LAB (Law Abiding Biker). LAB is a couple guys from Yakima Washington who have a lot of maintenance videos on You Tube for Harley. They do a weekly podcast to the law abiding community. They are IOMC friendly and are covering the Jax incident in a fair and balanced way. You can hear their report at around the 26 minute mark. This is one avenue we will use to get the story out to the world when the time is right.
“It is critical that all brothers follow our directions on what is said to everyone outside our club. It is critical that we do not debate or make negative comments about what we are doing on our home page, the forum, press statements, public communications or anything else the Senior Leadership determines we need to do. This is not about censorship or dictatorship. This is about crisis management at a time we are protecting our club, our prospect, and our brothers. This is our area of expertise. This is our responsibility. Your responsibility is to follow the sheet music, march to the drum and keep your mouths shut, both internally and externally. Only say what you are told to say. If you post something stupid on the forum, Facebook, Topix or any other social media we will take it down or tell you to take it down. This is not a time in our history we will be asking. Asking sinks ships and gets people hurt in times like this. Let us do our job. Keep your negative opinions to yourselves. Keep the banter off the forum. If you have questions or comments, ask but don’t get pissed off if you don’t like the answers and start running amok because you think you know a better way.
If you have first hand experience in Public Relations specific to crisis management contact me directly. I will put you to work. I have first hand experience in crisis management of public relations and will use it to the best of my ability. Shark will handle the legal side. We will keep you informed. Let us do our job and you do your job; follow your leadership’s directives. Listen to the podcast. It shows the silent majority of law abiding motorcyclists are watching and waiting for the facts. They already have a good idea what this is about. The morons on the hater’s pages and Aging Rebel are a very small minority of vocal idiots. There are many interesting comments about Aging Rebel in this podcast I am sure you will find very amusing. Thanks go to Bonzo for sending this in. Continue to come back to the forum for future updates. Enjoy