Don’t call it the Mongols case. It isn’t about the Mongols. It is about cops and lawyers and judges getting paid.
For those just now returning from a long trip to the planet Mars, almost a year ago, on October 21st, 2008, United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien announced via press release that, “Sixty-one members of the violent Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang were arrested…after being named in an 86-count federal racketeering indictment that alleges the criminal enterprise was involved in a wide range of criminal activity, including murder, hate crimes against African-Americans, assaults, firearms violations and narcotics trafficking.”
Here is a quick summary of what that press release claimed and the reality of what has happened in the Mongols case so far.
Guilty Of What
“A total of 71 defendants have now been taken into federal custody as a result of (a) three-year investigation” the press release announced.
“According to the indictment, members of the Mongols typically engage in crimes that include acts of violence – ranging from battery to murder – drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons trafficking, extortion, and, very frequently, violent attacks on African-Americans. Members also frequently conduct robberies, steal motorcycles, and engage in the theft of credit card account information to obtain funds for themselves and the organization. Members often commit their crimes and acts of violence with perceived impunity because they believe victims and witnesses are afraid to testify against them or to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of retaliation by the larger Mongols organization.”
Seventy-nine men were named in that indictment a year ago. As of September 29th, 2009 seventy-eight of them have appeared before a judge. Peter Soto, defendant number 14, has not yet learned of the charges against him and so has not yet turned himself in. Jorge Cottini, defendant number 65, died before he could clear his good name.
Forty-two defendants have either pled guilty or entered into plea and sentencing agreements with the government. One defendant pled guilty to methamphetamine trafficking. The other forty-one have pled guilty to Count One of the indictment which labels the Mongols Motorcycle Club as a criminal syndicate.
To date, no one has been convicted of any charge other than belonging to a racketeering enterprise.
Trial Or No Trial
One defendant, Harry Reynolds, defendant 51, a former Las Vegas chapter President, has entered a motion to separate his case from the other defendants.
The remaining 34 defendants are scheduled to stand trial beginning November 24th. However, the government seems intent on avoiding a trial and coercing confessions to Count One from as many of the remaining defendants as possible. In a status report filed with the court a week ago, prosecutors told the judge “the government suggests that the Court vacate the November 24, 2009 trial date, but set a status conference on November 10, 2009, or on a date convenient for the Court for any defendant who has not entered a guilty plea by that date.”
The government, the status report alleges, is asking for a delay out of the goodness of the prosecutor’s hearts and on behalf of the 34 men who have not yet been brow-beaten into making a plea deal. “The majority of these defendants and their counsel,” the government claims in its report, ” are not prepared to proceed to trial on November 24, 2009.”
“Those arrested today include the former Mongols National President Ruben ‘Doc’ Cavazos,” the official version of the Mongols bust announced, “several chapter presidents, and various officials of local chapters. In addition to the arrests today, authorities seized dozens of motorcycles which allegedly are part of the gang’s criminal enterprise.”
To date, none of the motorcycles have been returned nor has any connection between those bikes and the criminality of any of the defendants been established. Cavazos made a plea deal with the government in January and, according to court documents, is helping the government pursue its case against the 34 remaining defendants.
United States Attorney O’Brien quit this case on September 1st to pursue a new career defending white collar criminals.
Last year’s release went on to quote Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge John Torres as saying, “Today, the leadership of the Mongols, one of the most violent outlaw motorcycle gangs, was taken down. For three years, four brave and dedicated ATF undercover agents put their lives on the line to infiltrate the Mongols. They made great personal sacrifices to protect our community and we are all extremely grateful.”
To date, the names of three of those agents have been revealed in public documents: ATF Special Agents Gregory Gaioni, Darrin Kozlowski and John Carr. The names of the other five ATF Agents and the eight confidential informants involved in the investigation have not yet been made public.
The Mongols Motorcycle Club lawfully incorporated last January and held a national run in Lancaster, California last July.
In what was the clearly the most shock and awe inspiring passage in that press release the government bragged, “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…. 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.”
As part of his plea deal, Doc Cavazos agreed to forfeit the trademarked name “Mongols.” The government then proceed to seize items bearing that name, and items bearing the trademarked Mongols logo, or patch, and memorabilia bearing any reference to the Mongols.
On July 31st, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper specifically enjoined the government from stopping any member, or former member, or supporter of the Mongols to “literally take the jacket right off his back.”
“The Government,” Judge Cooper wrote, “its officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and anyone in active concert or participation with any of the foregoing persons, (is enjoined) from seizing, or asking or directing any other person or entity to seize…any property or item bearing or displaying all or part of the collective membership mark at issue in (the case) United States v. Cavazos.”
The government has complained about this injunction. Attorneys for the Mongols have asked the judge to return some of the property the government has already seized. Judge Cooper will probably rule on that request later this week.