The altogether unreasonable Mongols Nation case, in which two Assistant United States Attorneys named Christopher Brunwin and Stephen Welk decided to try the same racketeering case over and over and over again until they either got the verdict they wanted or the Mongols Motorcycle Club went broke, could be over as soon as next Monday.
The case had been assigned to the Honorable Otis D. Wright for almost two years until he resigned in shame on May 26. The case was then immediately, briefly assigned to Judge John A. Kronstadt, presumably because he has some expertise in trademark law. Kronstadt didn’t want it and Mongols attorneys Joe Yanny and Elliot H. Min offered him a way out last week – a motion that said the case should more properly be assigned to Judge David O. Carter. Yesterday Kronstadt handed the case off to Carter who will probably entertain a motion for dismissal next Monday morning.
United States versus Mongols Nation is the culmination of a long and malicious attempt to beat the Mongols Motorcycle Club into submission and it has been largely incomprehensible to the mainstream press that has tried to report it. So, a brief summary is in order.
Brunwin and Welk got the bright idea of ridding America of motorcycle clubs by seizing their insignia under the racketeering statutes in October 2008. They lied to a judge, the late Florence Marie Cooper, about what they were up to and for more than six months police thought they had been empowered to literally steal anything that contained the word “Mongols” from anyone they wanted. That first racketeering case was called U.S. versus Cavazos et al. The government claimed that former Mongols president Ruben “Doc” Cavazos owned the word Mongols and the club’s insignia because he had trademarked it and that he had then ceded the marks to the government as part of his plea deal. Police seized ”Support Mongols” tee shirts, souvenir calendars, bandannas and vests at will until Judge Cooper found out what was going on in the summer of 2009.
A Mongol in San Diego named Ramon Rivera sued the Department of Justice for the right to wear his Mongols patch. Rivera wasn’t a criminal. He hadn’t been indicted and he argued that he retained the right to belong to his club and wear its patch. Judge Cooper agreed with him and she reprimanded Brunwin and Welk for misleading her. She ruled that the club’s “word mark” and “picture mark” were “collective membership marks” that enjoyed full First Amendment protection. The case should have been settled at that moment but Brunwin and Welk simply refused to give up.
After Cooper died, the 78 separate cases that comprised Cavazos were split between Judges Wright and Carter and Carter assumed control of the Rivera civil case. Both of those judges ruled the Mongols had the right to keep their patch. Wright, who unabashedly sympathized with the prosecutors, suggested to them in open court that they might yet seize the patch if they could just convict the Mongols Club as a whole of racketeering in a court case. That was where Mongols Nation came from.
Brunwin and Welk carried on like Terminators. They just wouldn’t stop. They appealed Rivera and lost. They refused to pay for Rivera’s lawyers and Judge Carter told them they had to pay. They appealed that and lost. Then they filed the Mongols Nation indictment. Monday they will find out if Judge Carter has changed his mind. He probably hasn’t.
In his last ruling on the matter, Carter wrote that Brunwin and Welk’s “argument is simply an attempt to re-litigate an issue already decided against them.” He also said the two prosecutors’ efforts to seize the Mongols patch was “based on an ungrounded and unsubstantiated legal theory, and without sufficient factual support.”
Whether the Department of Justice, or Brunwin and Welk, will be sanctioned for the Mongols Nation fiasco is debatable but possible. The two lawyers have wasted a fortune in tax revenues for nothing – for the joy of using their official powers to bully around a few hundred men.
Washington has already given up on the case. The government is now pursuing other means to effectively ban wearing motorcycle club patches. That is one meaning of what happened in Waco last month. Police have begun to raid Confederation of Clubs meetings – not just in Waco but also in other locations in Texas and the Midwest. And, they have harassed and slandered bars and restaurants, like the Waco Twin Peaks, that have allowed patch holders in the front doors.
The model for banning patches, invented in collaboration with the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, is the VLAD Law (an acronym for the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act of 2013) in Queensland. The next battle will be over the right of people in unpopular clothes to peacefully assemble in taverns and other public places.
Louis Brandeis said the most basic human right is the right to be let alone. The point of Mongols Nation, the point of the VLAD laws, the point of the hysteria in Waco, is to prove Brandeis wrong.