Throughout much of the last six months, ruffians employed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have been stealing personal items from members and friends of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.
The seizures are really about nasty and out of control policemen using the full power of the federal government to humiliate and frustrate people who those cops think should be fair game. The ATF has maintained that the seizures are legal. According to witnesses, at one point an ATF Case Agent named John Ciccone even waved a piece of paper at his victims to prove they were legal.
Ciccone did not actually let anybody read his special piece of paper. He guarded the words written on it as if they were a magic spell for making gold but a good guess is that he was waving a federal injunction.
The injunction was issued last October and it was intended prevent former Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos from selling the trademark “Mongols” to the Iron Pigs or whoever else might be interested in buying a better name. Starting last Spring, the Department of Justice (DOJ) also began arguing that the trademark “Mongols” should immediately be forfeited to them because Cavazos gave it to them as part of a plea deal.
You Were Serious About That
But not all Mongols have agreed and at the end of July the Judge who issued that original injunction and who reviewed Cavazos’ plea deal said the government had gone too far. The ATF, Judge Florence Marie Cooper ruled seven weeks ago, has no right to steal personal property from unindicted members of the club just because the property has the word “Mongols” on it. The name Mongols, the judge ruled, and all symbols that represent that name belong to the Mongols. The name never belonged to Doc Cavazos. The decision is called the Rivera ruling and it is unambiguous. A fish could get it.
But ever since the government has kept asking the judge, “You were serious about that?” It is not so much a matter that the prosecution does not understand Rivera as that they cannot believe Judge Cooper wrote it. This “failure to communicate,” as Strother Martin put it in Cool Hand Luke, is still playing out. It should finish playing out soon.
Nine days ago, in a separate ruling, Judge Cooper wrote that the government “has no authority to seize items bearing only the second mark” by which she means the logo the Mongols wear as a center patch. She never gave the DOJ authority to “preserve” that trademark in the first place. So presumably, until this week the judge has been completely unaware that the ATF has been confiscating items that that are otherwise symbolic of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. “There is minimal evidence,” Judge Cooper wrote with touching naiveté, “that property bearing only the second mark (the Mongols logo) has been seized.”
Is The Judge Stupid Or Cute
Either Judge Cooper is credulous as a child or she is playing coy. The government has been stalling for seven weeks, waiting for the judge to come to her senses and join the anti-Mongol crusade. The Mongols attorneys meanwhile, have been taking the tack that she just does not really understand what the federal police are like.
Monday, club counsel tried once more to gently shake the learned judge awake.
“First the government sought to take the Club’s Motion off-calendar, then it sought to strike the motion, then it sought a three week extension of time to file its supplemental brief, all in an effort to delay the ultimate determination of the issues raised in the Club’s Motion and on which the Court has requested supplemental briefing,” The Mongols attorney, John W. MacPete complained about the delays in a brief filed Monday. “The Court should not condone the government’s continued efforts to delay a decision of this matter.”
What And When
MacPete is asking the judge to order the return of the property that has been seized from club members and associates. And, just to make sure it gets into the record, MacPete’s 31-page brief includes sworn statements from Mongols patch holders Rene Ruiz and Isaac Daza that they have had personal property seized by the ATF simply because that property bore the Mongols logo or the initialism MFFM.
Unless the judge has a stroke, the government has already lost this part of this case. The government lost on July 31st and everybody knows it.
Last week prosecutors accused Judge Cooper of “premature adjudication” and asked her to take her judgment back. Pick the metaphor of your choice – shoving the toothpaste back in your tube, putting the bullet back in your gun – she cannot take it back any easier than you could.
Judge Cooper will probably make a ruling on this matter in the next week without holding a hearing. When she rules in the Mongols favor, members and supporters who have had their property seized should expect it to be returned within three weeks.