Forty-five days after bragging that a racketeering indictment had “struck a significant blow to the Bandidos criminal enterprise” the Department of Justice remains unwilling to give the public a glimpse at any evidence that might substantiate the charges in a 23-page, surplusage filled indictment against Bandidos Motorcycle Club vice president John Xavier Portillo, president Jeffrey Fay Pike and sergeant at arms Justin Cole Forster.
Pike, who was arraigned in Houston is now free on bail. Portillo and Forster, who are defendants one and three in a case formally titled U.S. v. Portillo, are still locked up in San Antonio. Portillo had a bail hearing Tuesday. A federal magistrate judge named Henry Bemporad called him a threat to public safety and refused to allow his release.
The government written headline atop this case is “The Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Organization declared it was ‘at war’ with the Cossacks Outlaw Motorcycle Organization.” But at the same time, according to the government, the indictment against the three Bandidos is the fruit of a 23-month long investigation by the Houston Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the San Antonio Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office in San Antonio and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Operation Texas Rocker
The investigation has been christened “Operation Texas Rocker” because the Department of Justice wants the public and press to perceive the meaning of the case to be a putative dispute between the Bandidos and the Cossacks Motorcycle Club over the Cossacks wearing a Texas bottom rocker on their vests. These operational names are always blatant propaganda. Operation Black Biscuit, a case against the Hells Angels in Arizona, for example was literally coined on the set of the old Fox true crime show America’s Most Wanted. The public and the press are supposed to believe that the dispute over that rocker culminated in the bloody brawl at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco last May 17. And, wouldn’t that be a neat way to stitch up that purse? In fact, the Bandidos as a club had already made the decision that in 2015, when cop clubs, predominantly black clubs and aspirational clubs like the Iron Order give themselves permission to wear a Texas bottom rocker, the issue of bottom rockers is no longer “worth going to jail for 30 years.” The times, believe it or not, are changing.
Although the narrative of the indictment and the press release that accompanied it suggests the investigation was prompted by concerns about public safety that was somehow jeopardized by tensions between the Cossacks and the Bandidos, the indictment doesn’t mention the Twin Peaks Massacre once. Police have said multiple times that they were at the Twin Peaks that day to “gather intelligence.” The Texas DPS installed a “covert camera” at seven that morning to “gather intelligence.” Waco police spokesman W. Patrick Swanton bragged endlessly to the press about the abundance of police “intelligence.”
Actually, the intended intelligence gathering at the Twin Peaks was part of a much broader attempt to gather intelligence about methamphetamine distribution in Texas. Investigating agencies included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Homeland Security and that broad investigation focused on the Aryan Circle and the Cossacks at least as much as the Bandidos.
“Operation Texas Rocker has inflicted a debilitating blow to the leadership hierarchy and violent perpetrators of the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang,” Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-Houston Field Division said when the indictment was announced. “This 23-month operation highlights a deliberate and strategic effort to cut off and shut down the supply of methamphetamine trafficked by the Bandidos as well as other related criminal activity.”
The cluster of interrelated investigations that eventually was named Operation Texas Rocker always had at least two goals. One was to map the meth trade in the state and the other was to find an excuse to lock up the Bandidos leadership – even if that meant tolerating or even participating in criminal activity by members of the Aryan Circle and the Cossacks. Of the two goals, locking up the Bandits was by far the most appealling and the most likely to result in big, black, sexy headlines. Congress, who funds this neverending clown circus, loves big, black, sexy headlines.
Almost all of the case against Portillo, Pike and Forster remains sealed from public view. The docket for the last month includes the filings:
SEALED MOTION for Protective Order by USA as to John Xavier Portillo, Jeffrey Fay Pike, Justin Cole Forster. THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN SEALED PURSUANT TO AUSA REQUEST.
Text Order REFERRING Motion for Protective Order as to John Xavier Portillo, Jeffrey Fay Pike, Justin Cole Forster to the U.S. Magistrate Court for review and consideration. This is a text−only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.
Sealed Order. Signed by Judge John W. Primomo.
Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge David A. Ezra: Sealed
Sealed Order. Signed by Judge David A. Ezra.
SEALED DOCUMENT filed.
Sealed Order. Signed by Judge David A. Ezra..
Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge David A. Ezra: Sealed Proceeding held on 2/12/2016.
Sealed Order. Signed by Judge David A. Ezra. (tr1) (Entered: 02/12/2016)
Sealed Transcript filed (This transcript is not available electronically.)
Generally, government prosecutors request portions of federal cases against motorcycle clubs be sealed in order to protect snitches from retaliation by the savage biker hordes. Retaliation from the Bandidos was a recurring theme in Swanton’s press conferences last spring. “Intelligence” indicated the Bandidos were on their way to Waco to break their club brothers out of the hoosegow – like “The Brotherhood” in the 1991 Brian Bosworth classic Stone Cold. At one point, Swanton actually explained the presence of Swat teams on Waco overpasses as the police “taking the high ground.” Swanton told reporters they had placed themselves in harm’s way by entering the parking lot of the Central Texas Marketplace. Reporters, in turn, stuck out their chests and said whatever Swanton told them to say.
At the time, Harold Pollack who is co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab said about Waco, “There is something very 1971 Rolling Stone about this scene. I couldn’t quite believe it when I read this news.” Pollack was one of the world’s few unbelievers. Most of the world’s reporters swallowed this nonsense whole. It might modestly be proposed that it might be time to stop giving police the benefit of the doubt, like the villagers in Aesop’s tale about that little boy who kept yelling “Wolf” eventually stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the police, like that little boy, are psychopathic liars who deserve to be eaten by wolves.
No one should believe anything about the Bandidos case. Circumstances strongly suggest that the public is being kept in the dark for political reasons rather than to keep undercover agents, informants and sources of information safe from retaliation.
For one thing, in the current millennium, outlaw motorcycle clubs simply do not retaliate against sworn and deputized police because to do so would be stupid. In the last five years multiple sworn and unsworn police provocateurs and informants including Jay Dobyns, Darrin Kozlowski, Charles Falco née Ashley Charles Wyatt, George Rowe, James Blankenship, Alex Caine and George Christie have betrayed members of major motorcycle clubs with impunity. They have all appeared on television multiple times. Kozlowski, Falco and Christie have been dramatized. All except Blankenship have secured lucrative book deals. A few months ago, a former Hells Angel angrily cursed Christie at a restaurant. Executives at the ATF have accused Dobyns of mental illness and of setting his own home on fire to better dramatize himself. But that’s about it.
It just might be time to ask the government what it is hiding and why,