Mongol Nation Trial Off Again

June 26, 2018

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Mongol Nation Trial Off Again

The Mongol Nation trial, which was scheduled to begin jury selection today, has been postponed until October 22.

The criminal case, which despite its obscure name is directed at the Mongols Motorcycle Club and is intended to strip the club of its identifying marks and also, possibly fine the club out of existence, was filed by prosecutor Christopher Brunwin and chief forfeiture attorney Steven R. Welk in February 2013.

In anticipation of today’s trial date, the two men filed a superseding indictment on May 17. That superseding indictment, which remained sealed until May 21, charges “Mongol Nation” with a previously uncharged murder, two attempted murders and multiple drug deals.

After the superseding indictment was unsealed, the case was continued by Judge David O. Carter until October 23, then rescheduled for today, then yesterday it was continued again until next October.

Joseph A. Yanny, the Mongols lead attorney said today the recently added charges were “too much” to prepare for this soon. The defendants in the recently added crimes are still awaiting trial so they are very unlikely to testify in the trial next fall. That makes it difficult for the defense to refute the governments accusations.

In The Beginning

The case has a long history beginning with a racketeering case called U.S. v. Cavazos And Others. Ruben “Doc:’ Cavazos was a previous Mongols president who stepped down in June 2008 and was kicked out of the club that August. Cavazos had trademarked the club’s insignia.

On October 21, 2008 a United States Attorney named Thomas Peter O’Brien issued a press release that announced the unsealing of a “racketeering indictment that (charged) 79 defendants” associated with “the violent Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang.” The sensational news in the release was that “The racketeering indictment seeks the forfeiture of the trademarked ‘Mongols’ name, which is part of the ‘patch’ members wear on their motorcycle jackets.”

“In addition to pursuing the criminal charges set forth in the indictment, for the first time ever, we are seeking to forfeit the intellectual property of a gang,” O’Brien gloated. “The name ‘Mongols,’ which is part of the gang’s ‘patch’ that members wear on their motorcycle jackets, was trademarked by the gang. The indictment alleges that this trademark is subject to forfeiture. We have filed papers seeking a court order that will prevent gang members from using or displaying the name ‘Mongols.’ If the court grants our request for this order, then if any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back.”

Doc Cavazos was to be the means to that end.

Testifying For Welk

In a declaration filed on June 11, 2010, Cavazos explained: “I sought the registration of the marks in order to ensure that I and other Mongols could prevent others from using our name and symbol. The officers of the Mother Chapter subsequently agreed that, in order to further ensure the protection of the marks from usage by others, the marks should be assigned to Shotgun Productions, LLC, a corporation that I owned and controlled. The transfer of the marks to my sole control as property of Shotgun Productions in April 2008 was carried out with the full knowledge and consent of the leadership of the Mongols who were responsible for making decisions for the enterprise. I incorporated and utilized Shotgun Productions at all times for my personal use and benefit. Neither the other officers of the Mother Chapter nor any members of the Mongols had any control over or participation in the creation or operation of Shotgun Productions.”

Cavazos agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against his fellow club brothers by at least late October 2008. It is possible that he was cooperating before that. Whenever he began cooperating, he testified that he considered the Mongols name and logo to be his personal property.

One exchange during a deposition intended to benefit the government’s forfeiture case went like this:

Q: “You transferred the marks to your personal control?”

Cavazos: “They were in my personal control to begin. Mongols Nation is mine. Went from one to another.”

Q: “Uh-huh. So you’re saying the marks were always yours? That you owned the marks?”

Cavazos: “Yes.”

Q: “Okay, so when did the marks come into existence?”

Cavazos: “I’m not sure what year they came into existence.”

Q: “So how did you come to own them?”

Cavazos: “When I became President of the Mongols.”

Q: “And, in your view being president of the Mongols meant that you owned the intellectual property?”

Cavazos: “I had the right to do whatever I wanted to do with that property. Whatever I wanted to do as the club President.”

Doc’s Deal

Cavazos spent almost two years debriefing in the basement of the Montebello Police Station. Most of that time he understood that in return for his cooperation, particularly in return for agreeing to forfeit the Mongols trademarks to the government, he would be sentenced to between thrre to five years in custody including his time in Montebello. Cavazos spent some of that time collaborating with Welk about how Welk could accomplish the seizure of the Mongols marks.

After he was sentenced to 14 years in prison, in a very rare in camera sentencing hearing, by Federal District Judge Otis D Wright, II on September 8, 2011, Cavazos changed his story. He wrote:

“AUSA Steven Welk, the forfeiture attorney for the government, met with me without my attorney present and went over all the questions that would be asked at a deposition. He suggested answers to these questions. A few weeks later, the deposition was held with my attorney present. Welk agreed to show up at my son’s sentencing and speak if necessary. He showed up but was not allowed to speak.”

The alleged conspiracy between Cavazos and Welk was fruitless.

By the end of July 2009, the then presiding judge in the Cavazos case, the late Florence-Marie Cooper, ruled that Doc had never owned the Mongols marks and that Welk couldn’t seize them.

First Amendment

“Even if the Court were to accept the Government’s evidence that Ruben Cavazos controlled the use of the mark during his tenure as National President,” Cooper wrote, “there is no support for the notion that a defendant’s control of property belonging to a RICO enterprise is sufficient to establish a forfeitable ownership interest in the property. In addition, there is no evidence that Ruben Cavazos owned a majority interest or any interest in the Mongol Nation that would equate to an ownership interest in the mark. There is no evidence that Shotgun Productions, LLC ever used the mark as a collective membership mark – to indicate membership in an organization substantially similar to that of the Mongol Nation. The purported assignment to Shotgun Productions, LLC is therefore without legal effect. Moreover, the Government’s evidence demonstrates that the Mongol Nation began using the collective mark in approximately 1969, and either Mongol Nation or Mongols Nation, Inc. continues to use the mark to identify their members. The Mongol Nation and Mongols Nation, Inc., by virtue of having used the collective membership mark since 1969, having registered the mark in 2005, and having continued use of the mark to identify members of the club, have acquired and maintained exclusive ownership in the collective membership mark at issue.”

“At the June 22 hearing,” she wrote, “the Government revealed for the first time that the mark it sought to forfeit was a collective membership mark. Previously, in its Ex Parte Application for Post-Indictment Restraining Order, the Government (in this case ATF Case Agent John Ciccone) referred to the mark simply as a trademark, which was ‘purportedly for use in commerce in connection with promoting the interests of persons interested in the recreation of riding motorcycles.’ In contrast to commercial trademarks, which are used in commerce and generally not entitled to full First Amendment protections, collective membership marks are used by members of an organization to ‘indicate membership in a union, an association, or other organization. The use and display of collective membership marks therefore directly implicate the First Amendment’s right to freedom of association. The Supreme Court has recognized that ‘implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment is ‘a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.’ This right is crucial in preventing the majority from imposing its views on groups that would rather express other, perhaps unpopular, ideas. Furthermore, clothing identifying one’s association with an organization is generally considered expressive conduct entitled to First Amendment protection…. If speech is noncommercial in nature, it is entitled to full First Amendment protection, which prohibits the prior restraint and seizure of speech-related materials without a judicial determination that the speech is harmful, unprotected, or otherwise illegal.

“Prohibiting speech of this nature constitutes an attack on a particular viewpoint. In Sammartano (v. First Judicial District Court, in and for the County of Carson City) the Carson City courthouse enacted a rule to prohibit admission of those with ‘clothing, attire or colors which have symbols, markings or words indicating an affiliation with street gangs, biker or similar organizations,’ because ‘such clothing or attire can be extremely disruptive and intimidating, especially when members of different groups are in the building at the same time.’ The Ninth Circuit reasoned that the rule singles out bikers and similar organizations for the message their clothing is presumed to convey, and held that the rule impermissibly discriminates against a particular point of view – the view of biker clubs as opposed to garden clubs and gun clubs. In this case, the Government targets an even narrower group of individuals, a single motorcycle club. In addition, the Government has been seizing property, which imposes a greater restriction on individual rights than the denial of access to a public facility. Accordingly, the seizure of property bearing a Mongols membership mark should be considered viewpoint-discriminatory. The Government’s ability to seize property bearing the trademark acts as a prior restraint and cannot stand without a judicial determination that the speech is harmful, unprotected, or otherwise illegal. No such determination was ever sought by the Government, and no such determination was ever made by the Court.”

Premature Adjudication

Welk immediately called Cooper’s ruling “premature adjudication” and argued that the issue of the government’s seizure of the Mongols marks could not be ruled on until the Cavazos case was complete.

Almost simultaneously with Cooper’s ruling, a San Diego Mongol named Ramon Rivera and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit titled Ramon Rivera v. Ronnie Carter etc. et al. Rivera had not committed or been accused of a crime. He simply wanted to wear his Mongols vest. Welk lost and appealed both rulings. He lost both appeals.

After Judge Cooper unexpectedly died. The individual Cavazos cases were divided in two and assigned to Judge Wright and Judge Carter. Judge Wright devised the legal scheme , based on a technicality, that allowed Welk to attempt to steal the Mongols insignia yet again. Cases under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) must be brought against two legal persons called a “RICO person” or defendant and a so-called “RICO enterprise.” In the Cavazos case, Cavazos and other defendants were the “RICO persons” and the Mongols Motorcycle Club was the “RICO enterprise.” Wright advised Welk and Brunwin to charge “Mongol Nation, an unincorporated association,” as the RICO person or defendant and the club as the RICO enterprise.

I Quit

As that case was about to go to trial, on May 26, 2015, Wright, who had been contemptuous of the Mongols and Yanny for years, abruptly confessed: “Any reasonable person would have reason to doubt my impartiality…. I’ve got to be impartial…. Did you think I was in the pocket of the government…. I have to be biased in favor of a criminal defendant…. I care about how this court is perceived by the public…. I’m trying to gracefully move out of this thing…. I’m going to recuse myself from this case…. It looks horrible. You win. I am going to vacate the hearing on June 1 and the trial beginning on June 2.”

In a desperate attempt to avoid Judge Carter the case was assigned to Judge John Arnold Kronstadt who had absolutely no knowledge of the Cavazos case. Then a week or so later, the whole mess was dumped in Carter’s lap.

Most of the accusations in the case adjudicated in Cavazos. And the idea of making a concept called “Mongol Nation” a criminal defendant has always been one of those absurdities that makes people distrust the legal system. Mongol Nation is not analogous to a corporation with significant assets. There is nothing to take away except the Mongols insignia and it is already well established that the government can’t take them without amending the Constitution.

Three minutes into Carter’s first hearing in Mongols Nation he asked, “So who goes to jail?”

It is still an unanswered question and it won’t be answered anytime soon.

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3 Responses to “Mongol Nation Trial Off Again”

  1. Iron Rider Says:

    All the money the government is throwing at this for how long and are no where further ahead as when they started this fiasco, but when it’s taxpayers dollars I guess it’s an open cheque book to keep on throwing gobs of cash at a case that is doomed for failure.

    This case is a prefect example of waste and the US DOJ using it to hold people hostage till they submit to their knees or break financially. Malicious prosecution doesnt even define the abortion this case has become, Mongols arent going to give in, they have nothing to lose but playing it out

  2. freebird Says:

    Three minutes into Carter’s first hearing in Mongols Nation he asked, “So who goes to jail?

    Steven Welk…… and we will call it deferred justice

  3. Old & Jaded Says:

    Astounding that anyone would believe that Cavazos “owned” the Mongols. The late Judge Cooper got it right. Judge Carter’s first question was telling and hopefully a sign that he isn’t buying charging an association as an individual…Hoping that we see an end to this stupidity in October.

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