The sputtering trial of three Hells Angels named Timothy R. Bianchi, Nicholas F. Carrillo and Josh L. Johnson in Lake County, California is starting to look like a permanent institution.
The three men are accused of seriously beating a Vago named Michael Anthony Burns at an Indian Casino called Konocti Vista in Lakeport, California in June 2011. Burns insists he suffered the injuries to his face and head during a fall. The Lake County Sheriff, a zealot named Francisco Rivero (photo above), refused to believe Burns and instead saw a way to attack what he regards as the great and terrible threat posed by outlaw motorcycle clubs.
The fight came just a month after Rivero somehow convinced himself that a pack of 150 Hells Angels was on its way to attack a party of fifty or so Vagos. Shaken by what he imagined, Rivero ordered every cop in Lake County to proceed “Code Three” to a town called Middleton, thirty miles south of Lakeport, where the assembled forces of good would meet the invading army of Hells Angels and stop them as Charles Martel stopped the Moors at the Battle of Tours. “Code Three” is cop-phonics for what police do when they turn on their lights and sirens and see how fast their cars can go.
Rivero ordered Highway 29, which is the only road in and out of Lakeport, closed. That day, three cruisers narrowly avoided a Smokey and the Bandit moment at the intersection of Highways 29 and 175. The 175 is the twisting mountain road that connects Highway 29 to the 101 Freeway and the dangerous outside world – to Healdsburg and Astoria and eventually godless places like San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. Snipers were deployed. Eventually, after a tense couple of hours, it turned out the Hells Angels were all spirits and had melted into air, into thin air.
And then three of them reappeared at the Konocti Indian Casino!
Still Saving Lakeport
The tale of the vanishing Hells Angels of 2011 was retold at Bianchi, Carrillo and Johnson’s trial last week. A Lakeport Police Department Lieutenant named Jason Ferguson was there the day the massive pack of Angels disappeared. And the day Burns was beaten Ferguson saw another group of 50 bikers. He is pretty sure some of them were Angels and he heard the ones that were Angels yell something at Burns as Burns rode by. “I didn’t hear the specific verbiage, but my opinion was it was not positive. It was negative,” Ferguson told jurors last week.
Most of the rest of the trial so far this month has been dedicated to establishing that the defendants are Hells Angels and although technically it is not illegal to be a Hells Angel it should be. A prosecutor named Art Grothe showed the jury a sign found in one of the defendants’ homes that read, “The meek shall inherit the earth when we’re through with it. Hells Angels World.” Grothe then entered a copy of the sign into evidence and then he displayed it at the front of the courtroom for most of a day. Then the trial recessed.
Soon an “Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and Expert Testimony Instructor” named Jorge Gil-Blanco will testify for a week. He is expected to say over and over again that it should be illegal to be a Hells Angel. There is as yet no estimate of how long this trial will continue or what it has cost so far or how much it will eventually cost or when, if ever, it might end.