Gangland, on the History Channel, is scheduled to slander another motorcycle club this week.
This Thursday, April 2nd at 9 pm Eastern Time, the “reality” series will air an episode titled “Silent Slaughter” which will dramatize, according to the network, the infiltration of the Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club by undercover agents. The network describes the Sons of Silence as “Colorado’s largest motorcycle gang (which) has spread to 36 chapters throughout the world since its inception in the 1960s.”
Who Is Gangland
Gangland is produced by The History Channel. The History Channel is a wholly owned subsidiary of a company called Arts and Entertainment Television Networks (AETN.) AETN in turn, is a joint venture of the Hearst Corporation and the Walt Disney Company. NBC has a minority share in AETN.
The identities of the actual producers of Gangland, the people who assemble and edit the stock footage, direct and videotape the dramatized reenactments and conduct and record the interviews for the show, are a closely guarded secret.
The only “infiltration” of the Sons by “undercover agents” began in 1998 and culminated in the autumn of 1999. During that period, two subsequently discredited agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) named Blake “Bo” Boteler and Cole Edwards hung around, prospected and patched into the Sons of Silence.
After the agents finally went back to their real lives, 42 people including five women were indicted for a variety of drug and firearms charges. In most cases the only evidence against the accused was the testimony of Boteler and Edwards. Thirty-seven suspects were arrested in a dramatic series of made for television raids carried out on October 8th, 1999 in Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado.
The day of the raids, United States Attorney Thomas Strickland called it “a very substantial case.” Strickland served as a U.S. Attorney for only two years but he built an impressive career on the arrests of the Sons. He is still bragging about it. He went on to run for the United States Senate. He has since worked in private practice and as a chief council for a health insurance company and he was recently named as Chief of Staff in the Department of the Interior in the Obama Administration.
Whether the case was good for Thomas Strickland’s career or not, it was a classic case of bad law enforcement. Half of the people indicted in the case weren’t even members of the Sons. During the raids agents trashed homes and stole and vandalized private property. Charges against most defendants were either dismissed or reduced.
And Introducing Jay Dobyns
One charge in the original indictment that was soon dismissed, involving a bar fight in Colorado Springs, is particularly interesting now because in his current, best-selling book No Angel, former ATF agent Jay Dobyns takes credit for provoking the alleged crime. In part, on pages 83 and 84 of his book, Dobyns describes going to that bar intending to start a fight. He writes:
“The Sons were a minor biker gang in Colorado Springs. We were running around as a made-up club called the Unforgiven…and we wanted to demonstrate that the Sons used intimidation and the threat of violence to maintain their turf. If we could do this, we could roll it into a RICO case being built against them. We wanted to do it that night by putting the screws to them, by hanging out in their place and showing them up. They were small-time and my confidence was high.”
Small Time Cops And Case
As the government’s case against the Sons of Silence was self-destructing, a fairly distinguished defense attorney named Larry Pozner described the infiltration like this. “They (the ATF) take relatively minor offenses and trumpet them as the crime of the century. This is garden variety stuff made to sound like a major law enforcement coup.”
The ATF also attempted to try the case in the press, in order to prejudice prospective jurors until District Court Judge Edward Nottingham issued a gag order to make them stop on November 25th, 1999. And, now the ATF is going to try to win the case again. This time on The History Channel.
Possible Future Gangland Episodes
Late in 1999, an attorney named David Lane said of the case, “This happens all the time, especially when big headlines are involved. I’ve represented a number of unpopular groups, and the most dangerous gangs in the country are the DEA, the ATF and the FBI. Those three gangs are frequently out of control, and they basically ride roughshod over the Constitution of the United States on a regular basis.”
Maybe Gangland should do a show about those three gangs next.