Seven members of the Rockford charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club pled not guilty Tuesday to the same set of charges against them that were dismissed last August.
Richard L. Todd, Robert A. Bell, John R. Savalick, Tomasz Lech, Aloysius J. Balice, Christopher L. Lawson and Jose P. Vielma Jr. are charged with armed robbery, aggravated kidnapping of a child younger than 13, unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated battery with a Taser, aggravated battery with a knife, aggravated battery with an ax handle and mob action. Prosecutors originally charged fourteen defendants in July 2013. Seven of the original defendants pled guilty to lesser charges and were sentenced to two years probation.
State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato alleged that on June 27, 2013 the defendants confined an unnamed Rockford man to the charter club house and hit him with an ax handle, punched him, struck him with brass knuckles and a hammer, Tasered him and stabbed him. Police claimed the men cooperated to steal the victim’s wallet, keys and truck and that they detained an 11-year-old girl while the victim was assaulted. The investigation started after the victim went to a hospital for treatment and police have never specified a motive. The victim appears not to have cooperated with the prosecution.
Prosecutors asked Judge Joe McGraw to delay trial last summer so the state could strengthen its case against the men. When the judge refused the state declined to prosecute. At the time Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Brun made an incomprehensible statement that: “As I indicated, the State’s Attorney’s responsibility is to provide a fair trial to all, so we’re certainly not going to rush a case to trial just to say everyone has their right to due process and everyone has their right to a fair trial and part of that is to protect our, all our witnesses so that is part of our decision making process that we deployed at this time.”
His boss, Joe Bruscato, issued a statement the next day that the charges were dropped because he had “to consider the safety of all witnesses.”
More To Come
Criminal defendants in the United States have a Constitutionally guaranteed “right to a speedy and public trial” so the state’s move to dismiss should have ended the case. But Bruscato refiled the charges on September 30. The dismissal last August was a blatant attempt to overrule Judge McGraw and get the continuance the judge said they couldn’t have. So far, the strategy is working.
All seven defendants remain free on bond. McGraw said the men can meet with one another for “lawful purposes” and that they cannot associate with known gang members. There is a motion hearing in the case on January 21. The defendants will probably move for a dismissal of the charges. The prosecutor will probably argue that the Hells Angels is a criminal gang.