The Mongols Nation Case, in which the government hopes to forbid Mongols Motorcycle Club members from wearing Mongols Motorcycle Club patches looks like it is headed for a nine week trial.
At a status hearing yesterday before new case judge John A. Kronstadt, prosecutor Christopher Brunwin said he would need about four weeks to present his case and Mongols lawyer Joe Yanny said he would probably need about five weeks to refute Brunwin’s lies. Kronstadt who has a vacation scheduled for July and August and a judges’ convention after that did not seem thrilled.
Formally, what Brunwin and former prosecutor Steven R. Welk are trying to accomplish is the “forfeiture of all property acquired or maintained in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962; any property, interest in property, or contractual or other legal rights that afforded a source of influence over the enterprise described in the indictment, and any proceeds constituting or derived from the racketeering activity alleged in the indictment.” The racketeering activity in this indictment is virtually identical to that alleged in a 2008 racketeering indictment against 79 Mongols defendants.
The lead defendant in that indictment was former Mongols president Rueben “Doc” Cavazos. Cavazos had been expelled from the club before the indictment was unsealed. He spent the first two years of his incarceration debriefing in the basement of the Montebello, California jail. He was likely cooperating with Brunwin for two months before the indictment was unsealed. Very informed sources believe he may have been cooperating with federal officials as early as June 2008. It was a very dirty investigation. Brunwin’s grand jury returned the indictment the day after a Mongol named Manuel Vincent “Hitman” Martin was shot off his bike and killed on the Glendale freeway. Three undercover ATF agents named Gregory “Russo” Giaoni, Paul “Painter” D’Angelo and Darrin “Dirty Dan” Kozlowski (portrayed by Canadian actor Ari Cohen in this year’s fictional miniseries Gangland Undercover) were with Martin the night he died and it seems very likely that they set him up to be killed. Meanwhile, as part of his cooperation agreement, Cavazos declared that he owned the Mongols insignia and gave it to the government as partial payment of his debt to society. When that turned out to be illegal, Cavazos was sentenced in a closed court session to 14 years in prison.
But Brunwin and Welk didn’t give up. In a summary of the government’s case filed May 29, Brunwin writes, “The criminal forfeiture allegation includes descriptions of two trade/service/association marks, described in the indictment as the ‘Word Image’ and the ‘Rider Image.’” Which is to say the Mongols’ name and logo.
The Mongols Racket
As recently as yesterday, Brunwin declared that his case would be based on plea agreements he coerced out of defendants in the Cavazos case. Defendants were given the choice of either admitting the Mongols Motorcycle Club was a criminal racket or doing 20 years in prison. Brunwin has also thought these admissions constituted proof that the club is a kind of mafia.
One day in 2010, while trapped in an elevator in the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse with a particularly rude and aggressive reporter, Brunwin said: “Well, I don’t really give interviews.”
Aging Rebel: “Do you really think you could prove the Mongols are a criminal conspiracy?”
Brunwin: “Oh absolutely.”
B: “Without a doubt.”
AR: “Oh, after you…. Okay. I won’t ask you any more.”
B: “No that’s alright. I just need to stop at the Marshalls.”
AR: “Okay. How would you prove the Mongols is a criminal conspiracy…you said it’s already been proven over and over that the Mongols is a criminal conspiracy. How?”
AR: “How have you proven over and over that the Mongols are a criminal conspiracy?”
B: “I guess you don’t know the case.”
B: “We have had defendant after defendant come into the court and admit it over and over.”
Brunwin’s theory of proving the Mongols guilty of racketeering is legal hash. He seems to think that he can prove that the Mongols is a racket because so many Mongols were coerced into admitting the words that he put in their mouths.
All of the confessees admitted to committing “predicate acts,” individual local crimes, but they all pled guilty to being racketeers. And in most, but not all these cases, the predicate acts had nothing to do with the Mongols Motorcycle Club except that the men who committed them were members of the Mongols at the time. None of the drug deals, for example, were Mongols deals. They were individual deals.
Under federal case law, the pleas were probably not even legal. Before a federal defendant can confess to a crime, that crime must be factually true and there has never been any factual basis for the allegation that the Mongols is a criminal racket. All the government has ever had are coerced confessions.
It was also a violation of the Federal Rules of Procedure for their attorneys to advise them to plead guilty to the RICO charge in the first place because the actual existence of a “Mongols Criminal Enterprise” was never proven. Advising their clients to plead guilty would have been an ethical and legal violation because at time of the pleas those attorneys knew or should have known that a legal defense to the RICO charge existed. And that defense would have been a simple demand that the prosecution prove that such a racket factually existed in the first place.
Judge Kronstadt will begin sorting this all out at a motion hearing on June 18. If he agrees to let Brunwin try to prove the factual basis for the plea deals, the trial cannot begin until sometime this autumn.