There was a half day of testimony last Friday in the Lake County, California trial of three Hells Angels named Timothy R. Bianchi, Nicholas F. Carrillo and Josh L. Johnson. The three men are accused of beating a Vago named Michael Anthony Burns at a tattoo convention in Lakeport, California in June 2011. The fight lasted about a minute.
The jury heard from two witnesses. The first was an emergency room physician named Steve Schifflett who testified that Burns had facial bruises, a cut lip and a possible broken nose. Burns declined to have his nose X-rayed. Someone had already stitched his lip by the time Schifflett saw him.
Burns has always maintained that he suffered the injuries in a fall. He refused to testify during a pretrial hearing.
The second witness was Burns himself and he refused to testify again. That was prosecutor Art Grothe’s only point.
Grothe told the jury the Vago would refuse to testify and then he showed them the Vago not testifying. Burns doesn’t have a lawyer and he has refused to invoke his Fifth Amenment right against self incrimination. All he said Friday was, “I refuse to answer that question.”
The third time Burns said that, after Grothe’s third question, the prosecutor told the jury, “I think we’ve established a pattern here.”
When the trial next resumes, the prosecution will call self styled biker authority Jorge Gil-Blanco to the stand. Gil-Blanco, a San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff who may or may not know where the start button is on a Harley, has somehow made a career out of testifying about the styles, mores and alleged criminality of motorcycle clubs. He is expected to testify that outlaw motorcycle club members never testify for the prosecution – even against their assailants. Jurors may have to guess the logical implications of that beyond the fact that many motorcycle club members are cynical about the criminal justice industry. The point of the trial seems to be to put on an expensive show that in and of itself will punish the three Hells Angels for being Hells Angels.
A defense attorney named Michael Clough called Grothe’s examination of Burns “a charade.”
Gil-Blanco will begin his testimony January 7 and he may testify for up to a week.
The Show Must Go On
The decision to prosecute the three defendants seems to have more to do with attention whoring by a local sheriff named Francisco Rivero and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation than with public safety or the righting of any wrong.
The case against the three Angels was initially investigated by a Lake County Sheriff’s Sergeant named Gary Frace. Frace didn’t think there was much to prosecute and he closed the case. That prompted Rivero to reopen the “investigation” and order his internal affairs unit to investigate Frace.
Eventually, after a federal investigation that lasted more than a year, Bianchi, Carrillo and Johnson were charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon and a “gang enhancement.”