A circuit court judge in Illinois named Sharon L. Prather voided the First Amendment last week. Prather ruled that three cutoff vests owned by the American Outlaws Association can be seized because some policemen say the motorcycle club is a “street gang” and the vests are “contraband” used “to facilitate street gang activity.”
There is a substantial amount of federal case law that states that motorcycle club patches are a constitutionally protected form of free expression. In Roberts v. United States, for example, the Supreme Court ruled:
“An individual’s freedom to speak, to worship, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances could not be vigorously protected from interference by the State unless a correlative freedom to engage in group effort toward those ends were not also guaranteed. According protection to collective effort on behalf of shared goals is especially important in preserving political and cultural diversity and in shielding dissident expression from suppression by the majority. Consequently, we have long understood as implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.”
Many other legal cases including United States v. Apker and Sammartano v. First Judicial District Court have ruled that motorcycle club insignia is not inherently criminal and cannot be suppressed. Prather decided to make new law by declaring that the vests intimidate others.
Prosecutor Robert Zalud told Prather the vests must be be contraband because they aren’t “Boy Scout patches.” Without a shred of evidence, Zalud said the outlaws are, “are not out there doing good…. they are there to bully and to scare. That’s what they do.”
The vests were seized after five men wearing Outlaws cuts and a woman wearing a “property of” patch allegedly assaulted patrons of a bar called the Lizard Lounge in unincorporated Wonder Lake, Illinois in November 2012.
According to court testimony, two men were punched and kicked and the woman accompanying the outlaws spit beer in another woman’s face and threw the victim across a bar.
At the time of the arrests, McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said the “motorcycle club members went to the tavern looking for a specific person.”
The accused are charged with felony aggravated battery and mob action.