The Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles is a polished granite tower in a three building complex called the Roybal Federal Center. The Center also features a brutalist-modern jail decorated with garlands of razor wire and long lines of sad women. The least of the buildings is a place veterans go to bind up their wounds in red tape.
The Roybal is named for the most successful politician in the history of the Eastside; who must never be forgotten; so everything is named for him. The Institute of Gerontology at USC is named for him. So is a Los Angeles hospital. So is the most expensive high school ever built in Southern California – constructed over an underground lake of toxic and explosive gas. Roybal remains so revered even in death that signs all over the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in far off Atlanta shout out his name.
Eventually the Washington Monument will be called the Washington Roybal. Mars will be called Roybal Four and there will be a spirited, scholarly debate over whether the big dust bunnies out beyond Roybal Eight are actually Roybals at all or merely Roybaloids. Don’t fight history. Get used to it. Let the river push you. Roybal. Go ahead. Say it loud and proud.
Funny though the word Roybal might seem this official place is bleakly immune to satire because the Roybal is the justice casino. And all the games are crooked. And, no matter how hard I try I can’t make that funny. So this is going to be a very long, very bleak story. And, by long I mean about a sixth of a book. That long. And, mostly bleak.
So, let’s give mockery and sarcasm one more little romp while there is still time.
A Few Words About Art
When plans for this monument to freedom (freedom being just another word for Roybal) were announced in 1985, the Federal Building alone was estimated to cost $150 million. No one will ever know how much it really cost. No one cares. It was built with free money from the free people by way of the irresistible government and so now it is ours. It is here for us – as gullible children are taught that the law is the will of us. And, we are all free to enjoy the public art which decorates the Roybal’s meticulously barren fields of fire – if we dare.
These absolutely indispensible examples of the painted word were commissioned in 1986 by the General Services Administration – the bureaucracy that signed the checks – with the twin goals of drawing visitors from the nearby and then new Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and also to create “a feeling of place.” Not many of the arterati drift over from what is now debt-plagued MOCA but this art does betray this place and the feelings it compels. Look.
“The New World” by Tom Otterness delights esthetes, fluttering pigeons and tout les miserables with what appears to be either an alien or a human woman in chains. Possibly, what Otterness was striving to depict here was a woman who once was human before she lost at a justice casino game. Similarly, Joel Shapiro’s mysteriously titled “Untitled” allows the observer a startling vision of the last, terrible passion of Gumby: As Gumby, drawing his final claymation breath before he turns to stone, must renounce even the possibility of the existence of truth or justice.
And rising over all the little people and all the little pigeons and all the little art is Jonathan Borofsky’s stupendous “Molecule Man,” which is so wonderfully subtle that it may or may not be three prisoners, shot full of bullet holes, fighting it out on the yard at Lompoc. So allusive is this creation that other critics may glimpse the machine gunning of a rugby scrum. Borofsky told the GSA that these holes are supposed to be molecules of water. Which the GSA eagerly bought because the original, government specifications for this project contained a clause that it had to include “a water element.” So, you know…voila! Water molecules.
Although, “Molecule Man” is actually a duplicate of a statue, also called “Molecule Man,” which Borofsky sold to the Allianz Corporation in Berlin.
And of the German statue, Borofsky has said, “For me, this hundred-foot tall aluminum sculpture composed of three figures meeting in the center, not only refers to the lightness inside our own solid bodies, but also the figures joining in the center, referring to the molecules of all human beings coming together to create our existence.”
So, if not even the artist who made this thing can decide from one copy to the next what his statue means it might be possible that it means what the capricious winds that blow through it mean, what a roll of dice means, what a roulette wheel means. Personally, when I look at “Molecule Man” I see the rage that might linger like a bad ghost even after three, battling convicts have been shot full of holes.
Revels Now Are Ended
Outside is as funny as the justice casino gets. I have to go inside to witness a hearing for one of the defendants in the current Mongols case. A guy named Harry “Face” Reynolds, a former President of the Las Vegas chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, has been trying for months to have his case tried separately and to discover all the evidence against him: Evidence that the government claims would prove he is actually guilty. And also evidence the government holds and has overlooked, or that the government has innocently forgotten about or that the government is brazenly hiding that would actually be exculpatory – that would prove that Harry Reynolds is innocent. And even possibly, evidence that might prove that the government has known that Reynolds is innocent all along.
I know. Everyone knows. Reynolds has only what – in the bad, old, racist West – used to be called “a Chinaman’s chance” of winning his case but he is already on the threshold of accomplishing something that only one in 25 federal defendants attains – an actual trial. In the decade ending in 2008 ninety-six percent of all federal defendants pled guilty. Not that a trial isn’t just another rigged game. The overwhelming majority of the four percent who demand a trial because they think they are innocent end up being judged guilty. And, after they are convicted they get the book thrown at them – for not cooperating.
Good citizens who have never actually crossed swords with an authority that can build $150 million tributes to itself might wonder why a simple case against a Vegas stone mason is so complicated that 400 days after his indictment much of the evidence against him must still be concealed. And, if they know what is good for them, none of these citizens better utter their wonder out loud. Everyone must cooperate.
The Justice Casino
Harry Reynolds is accused of two seemingly straightforward crimes. First, he is accused in Count One of an 86 Count, 177 page indictment of “conducting” and “conspiring to conduct and participate in the conduct of the affairs of the Mongols through a pattern of racketeering activity.” Whatever racketeering is supposed to mean? Violating the Mann Act, possibly? Conspiring to fix a casino game? And secondly, Reynolds is accused in Count Fourteen with “with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and Cocaine.”
Senators, Presidents and reality show contestants who experience the world mostly through the medium of a cathode ray tube or a plasma or LED screen might think it all boils down to a simple matter of whether Reynolds actually did what he is accused of doing or whether he did not. But criminality in America is no longer, if it ever was, black or white or even a continuum of grey. In post-modern, mass-media America there is no longer any absolute black, white or even grey. Criminality is now determined by subterfuge, ambition, gamesmanship and public relations. That might be the only thing the Mongols case has proved to this date.
The case against the Mongols Motorcycle Club was created by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF has improbably evolved from the Revenuers to the Fireworks police and then into the right-wing militia police and finally into the motorcycle club police. Along the way the Bureau has survived by creative exaggeration. Today that exaggeration has evolved into an expertise in public relations that borders on sorcery.
Only a tiny portion of the ATF’s work involves motorcycle clubs. Mostly the Bureau investigates illegal gun and dynamite sales, cigarette and fireworks smugglers and occasionally schemes for avoiding alcohol taxes by calling whiskey a “bio-fuel” and so on and so forth. But motorcycle clubs are sexy. The public at large vicariously enjoys the sex, thrills and power, the refusal to cooperate with authority and the unrestrained depravity the ATF attributes to the outlaw world. And, because motorcycle clubs are inherently anti-social and secretive tribes the ATF can demonize them as much as they want and the bikers will hardly ever talk back.
And then, for a complex or reasons, the ATF may be more inclined than other federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, the Secret Service and the IRS to attract agents who might actually be insane – whatever “insane” means.
For example, the ATF decided to infiltrate and investigate the Mongols in “Operation Black Rain” because, at least in part, an ATF Agent named John Ciccone was not as personally and professionally satisfied as he had hoped he would be by an earlier investigation of the Mongols code named “Operation Ivan.” Ciccone has said as much himself, publically, on this web site.
Last June Ciccone, commenting here under the alias “T-Dogg,” expressed his contempt for and hatred of the Mongols in several immoderate comments.
“Bottom line is I still have my patch and proudly wear it everyday wherever I want like any real patch-holder, you can’t do that anymore can you,” Ciccone taunted. “Who’s the nobody now? I’m just sayin…T-Dogg”
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Mongols Motorcycle Club have been avoiding each other’s parties since at least March 11, 1977 when a nasty brawl broke out between the two clubs at a swap meet. And, T-Dogg tried to slip his knife into that crack. “First off, you say that the Mongols have earned the respect of the one percent clubs. I am a member of a major one percent club and every one percenter that I know views the Mongols as gangbanging bitches pretending to be bikers.
“Second, you say that the Mongols didn’t lose any respect for throwing their patches in the garbage at Laughlin. Bullshit!!! What legitimate patch holder would do this??? You didn’t see the HA do this! Why? Because, like I said before these Mongols are just pretending to be bikers and they didn’t earn their patch in the first place! T-Dogg”
And, T-Dogg also played to my comprehension of the narrative – the dramatic arc – of this story I held at that time. Last June I was just starting to pitch a proposal for a book called Out Bad.
Rebel The Writer
( I was simultaneously pitching a travel book titled Sixty Strip Clubs in Fifteen Cities in Five Days; an adventure called Bugs In Yer Teeth and a learn to read I called Topher and His Dad Run From The Police. When The Heat Sweated Tuscany was the young adult. I called the adult contemporary romance Earning Sarah Her Property Of Patch and the chick lit was Sex in South Jersey With the Pagans. My how-to-business was Big Hugs and Well Constructed Pipe Bombs: Rebel’s Fully Illustrated Step by Step Guide to Beating Your Competition and my financial advice for these troubled times was tentatively titled The Magic of Putting Everything in the Name of Your Motorcycle Club. For entrepreneurs I was pitching Gun Shows and Border Crossings: A Miscellany of Little Known Ways to Earn Tax Free Cash. My cooking book was Let’s Make Meth! And for the horticulture niche I proposed Rebel’s Secret Garden in a National Forest. So far no luck with any of them. My main talent is for offending important people.)
I was calling the Mongols book Out Bad because it seemed to me to describe both what had happened to former Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos and what was about to happen to the club. I no longer see this unfolding drama the same way. But I did then and Ciccone was eager to agree with me.
A Medal For Ciccone
“Well this is no surprise!! The Mongols MC is dead because they were infiltrated by a (Doc) no good gangbanging beaner rat. As a one percenter, I can say I am sorry to see the Mongols dismantled but that happened ten years ago when Doc came around the Mongols. Before that they were a real MC. Now they’re just a bunch of gang-banging bitches who have zero understanding of loyalty, honor, respect & brotherhood.
“Doc’s ‘Mongols’ have taught us that if you do stupid shit and involve your club, the Feds will pull your patch. That said if you are outlaw motorcycle club and behave like it, while the cops will still be a pain in your ass, your club & culture will survive! There is no brotherhood in business. T-Dogg”
Ciccone even took time to explain how his own thinking about the Mongols had evolved over time. “Luckily for the Mongols, Billy Queen was only average as an undercover agent and John Ciccone was not nearly as smart and wily as he is now and the Mongols escaped relatively unscathed. That’s right I said John Ciccone. I hate giving cops any sort of recognition, but John Ciccone has chosen the lifestyle he believes is for him, he is committed to it and works hard towards what he believes is the greater good and appears to have maintained some integrity. T-Dogg”
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Ciccone is not crazier than Captain Queeg. Let’s ignore T-Dogg’s references to his club and his patch and pretend that it is not at all weird that, for example, the Los Angeles County Sheriffs frequently refer to their police force as “the baddest gang in LA.”
I still can’t help noticing, in a disinterested and existential way, Ciccone’s brazen use of propaganda and lies to help him achieve what he thinks will be a “victory” over a group of bikers. Who cares whether ATF shot-callers are rational? What does matter is that Bureau decision makers are impressively sophisticated about propaganda and they have been since way before last June. An attorney in the Mongols case complained last year about the Bureau’s “considerable media sophistication.”
The ATF routinely manipulates print and electronic mass and niche media in order to glorify the “accomplishments” of its individual agents. Many of those agents are then able to cash in that glory for dollars and cents. Arguably that process is corrupt but it is not the ATF’s invention. It has been going on at least since Wyatt Earp turned his reputation into dollars. But, it is still, arguably, corrupt.
And, part of this lucrative publicity process is the routine demonization of the Bureau’s victims. And, it is a very quick sled ride from spinning the criminal justice process to cooperating with other federal agencies to intentionally obfuscate the criminal justice process. Because really, what is justice other than making sure the bad guys lose and the good guys win?
Let’s Ask An Agent
I still do not know if the ATF is any worse at this propagandizing than any other big bureaucracy. I asked a former ATF Undercover Agent point blank, “What’s wrong with the ATF?”
“Cowardly leadership,” he said, “and an institutional predisposition to go after any weak person or entity that criticizes them…. We have a perfect storm of managers who are insecure, jealous, incompetent, cowards and have no problem lying.”
It is not the answer I am expecting to hear. I am not sure how I can use that quote because, at least partly, I think the former agent is very naïve for a decorated, tough guy, career cop. I sort of take it for granted that official lies are now part of the background noise of American life. But, I think where the ex-agent and I may be able to agree is that the ATF is better at lying than any other big bureaucracy. And the ATF is the bureaucracy that routinely, and often anonymously, explains the “motorcycle club menace” to virtually every public voice in the world.
“ATF is tasked with investigating violent crime specifically involving firearms and explosives,” the same agent psittacinematically explains. “The biker gangs are a perfect fit and some of our operatives have developed expertise in that area.” It is the official line. The former agent could be reading from a book. Except he has already memorized the book. He is a parrot in a movie. The ATF has become the “go to source” for all the authors and writers and reporters and producers in the world who want to tell a story about motorcycle outlaws but are too frightened to go look for themselves. And, the little price these “opinion makers” pay for access to ATF sources is merely complete gullibility.
America’s Most Wanted
For example, Ciccone has appeared on the popular Fox Television true-crime series America’s Most Wanted and he looks good on television. He is a self-assured and fit young man. He can’t grow a decent mustache but he does wear a little goatee and he comes bearing theatrical properties. The set of the Fox show has been decorated with paraphernalia stolen, or if you prefer “seized,” from Mongols club members. And, in return for unquestioning acceptance of ATF allegations, and because a lot of the people who fret over the America’s decline watch this show, AMW has been given “exclusive access” to the Mongols Investigation.
“Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 turned out to be a banner day for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and their ongoing effort to take down the Mongols biker gang,” the show’s host, an obviously well-intentioned man named John Walsh, said a year ago. “AMW profiled several members of the Mongols who had eluded capture during the October raid called Operation Black Rain…. Although the ATF had rounded up more than 70 Mongols when AMW profiled the case on November 1st, there were still 11 fugitives in the wind. Thanks to AMW’s viewers, the ATF scratched three more fugitives off their list….”
“These are bad guys,” Walsh assured millions of viewers. And, so the possibility that any juror might think of any Mongols defendant as an innocent guy became slightly less likely.
Writers Who Are Not Rebel
One of the reasons why so few insightful books about motorcycle clubs get published is because the authors must either be “participant observers” – like John Hall, or the Canadian anthropologist Daniel R. Wolf or Edward Winterhalder or Sonny Barger – or “professional” authors who must have the cooperation of the ATF.
In the first place, any story a professional writer will tell about outlaw bikers is a story that the ATF has already outlined. Secondly, professional writers as a rule are afraid of outlaw bikers. Third, even the brave writers can’t get outlaws to talk to them. They don’t frequent environments where they might learn something about bikers. So professional writers always depend on police sources to hand their story to them. Then all the writer has to work at is making the words pretty. It is a good deal for writers who know better than to offend important people. But the result tends to be professionally written police propaganda.
Well known “biker authority” Julian Sher, for example, is an authority mostly because the ATF says he is. Sher is a bright, vivacious man who knows how to fill up a page. He is certainly smart enough that he could find something interesting to say if he ever bothered to look. But he seems willing to look only as far as the easiest source. So Sher has become an official mouthpiece. Which partly explains how, a couple of years ago, Sher came to quote a prison psychiatrist who flatly proclaimed that all outlaw bikers are “psychopaths.”
Motorcycle Gangs Courses
Sher has even played at being a “biker authority” before audiences of gullible cops. Cops love to take outlaw motorcycle gangs courses. There must be a million of the things. Just attending one of these courses can be a little adventure for all the bored Barney Fifes who must give suburban mommies traffic tickets day after day. So they take these courses for their “professional advancement.”
And, who knows when real bikers might show up at one of these masquerades to pillage, vandalize and maybe even rape? Ooh, la, la! Rape. Maybe even gang rape. Fears of an outlaw biker invasion at one course called “Behind the Cuts” were so acute that the brochure warned, “the exact class location will only be given out with paid registration.”
“Behind the Cuts” lasted eight hours, cost $125 to attend and featured “ATF Supervisor John Ciccone (Supervisor of ATF numerous Major Undercover Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigations for ATF) and Julian Sher.”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!! You will be able to speak one on one with these experts and ask questions,” the promotional brochure explained. And, I have seen examples of both John Ciccone’s and Julian Sher’s prose. So when I noticed the multiple explanation marks in the “Behind the Cuts” brochure I wondered which one of them wrote the advertising copy. And, I also wondered if Ciccone wants Sher to call him T-Dogg.
Biker True Crime
ATF approved, armchair biker experts have another professional advantage over participant observers. Major publishers insist that their “true crime” titles must be “fact-checked.” And the ATF understands this. So, in the sub-genre of “biker true crime” the ATF has become the ultimate verifier of facts.
Random House published a factually verified book “written by” “average” ATF Agent William Queen in 2005. Under and Alone, the story of Queen’s harrowing adventures amongst the Mongols, was actually written by a professionally respected true crime writer named Douglas Century. Century has published three credited books, is impressively represented by International Creative Management and his words have appeared under his own name in The New York Times, Details, Rolling Stone, Men’s Journal, Radar, Blender, Vibe and The Guardian. But despite Century’s impeccability and Queen’s official heroism every review I have ever heard an actual Mongol give of this book has included the word “bullshit.”
So far the Mongols have been miraculously spared the movie. Mel Gibson’s production company, Icon, bought the rights to Under and Alone. But then Gibson got drunk and uttered some unfortunately anti-Semitic remarks during a traffic stop one night in Malibu. The financing for Under and Alone fell through and Gibson wound up making Apocalypto instead. The project is still out there, however, and sometimes the actual accomplishment of these major motion pictures takes a long time.
Another former ATF agent named Jay Dobyns published an enthusiastically promoted and verifiably true book titled No Angel. Dobyns book was written with the assistance of promising true crime writer named Nils Johnson-Shelton and published by Crown in January 2009. No Angel got rave blurbs from William Queen and Douglas Century as well as biker authority Julian Sher. Raise your hand when you spot the pattern, okay? Movie rights were snapped up by 20th Century Fox Studios and the book has been republished in England and Germany.
The History Channel series Gangland has also helped the ATF make its version of persons and events the verifiable, consensual truth. Former Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos, who bears at least some responsibility for the club’s current distress, appeared on that show. Part of a transcript from that appearance has actually been entered into evidence in the Mongols case. Which raised, considering the ATF’s media sophistication, an obvious question for me. Maybe it has also occurred to you.
So I asked Alan Nevins, Doc’s former agent, just how it was that Doc came to appear on cable TV talking about “wars” with the Hells Angels and the Mexican Mafia and all that sort of thing. And, Nevins replied that he honestly does not recall if Doc approached Gangland or the show approached him. “He approached me,” Nevins explained about his professional relationship with Cavazos. “Someone recommended him to me.” Nevins did not know who.
Gangland is a “reality-based” crime series that airs on the History Channel in the United States. A website explains the premise for the show: “They rob, kill, and terrorize, and they’ve left their bloody mark on American history. This is the world of Gangland….With exclusive interviews and rarely seen footage, this is a raw look at life inside these gangs – from those who live it and the agencies that are working to stop them.” The ATF, one of the agencies “working to stop them,” is undeniably, a primary source for all the Gangland episodes that depict the robbing, killing, rape, mayhem, and terrorizing done by the modern menace posed by motorcycle clubs.
A self-alleged participant in a recent episode about the Vagos Motorcycle Club told me, “All info comes directly from ATF according to her (a Chicago based producer named Jill.”) And undeniably, the story Gangland always tells about motorcycle clubs is the story the ATF wants heard.
Charles Manson And Ciccone
The longer I look at the Mongols case the more Orwellian the ATF begins to seem. I wonder if Charles Manson was an ATF Undercover Agent and how the ATF got us bogged down in Iraq.
I only have to ask Cavazos’ agent two or three obvious questions before I start to wonder just who might have suggested to Doc Cavazos that it would probably be a good idea for him to write a memoir.
Honor Few, Fear None: The Life and Times of a Mongol by Ruben “Doc” Cavazos, International President, Mongols Motorcycle Club was published by HarperCollins in June, 2008. And with 20-20 hindsight it might have been one of those projects that post-modern novelist John Barth once described as “worth remarking but not worth doing.” Which also raises the question of how, exactly, did Doc get hooked up with Gangland? If not Nevins then who? And, another thing I keep wondering about is who brought Doc Cavazos to the attention of a documentary film maker at HBO? How did Cavazos become the kind of egomaniac who would crave all this risky publicity?
Was somebody employed by the United States whispering in this guy’s ear? Or is that just me wondering if Manson worked for the ATF back in the day?
Click Click Click
The authoritative, factually verifiable book about Operation Black Rain has not yet been published. Although, for all I know, right this minute Douglas Century is click, click, clicking away. Whoever writes it, I know it will be a “compulsively page turning,” “absolutely amazing,” “fascinating true story,” of “brave,” “real American heroes,” that will take “us into the deepest and most dangerous part” of a “dark and twisted world.”
My guess is 2011. Kerrie Droban’s book about the Pagans is coming in 2010 and biker true crime is a niche market so my guess is the next Mongols book will be published early in 2011. And, my other guess is that when the book is published the excesses of ATF employees will be whitewashed while the enemies of the ATF – aren’t the enemies of the ATF really the enemies of all that is decent and American and good – will be tarred for doing exactly the same things the ATF agents have done.
The ATF has always been the Bureau of Dirty Tricks. Twenty-three years ago, an ATF Special Agent named Kenneth Faderley – pretending, incidentally, to be a biker named Gus Magisono – convinced an impoverished and alienated Vietnam Vet named Randy Weaver to saw the barrels down on a couple of shotguns for money to feed his children. Weaver, who mostly just wanted to be let alone, was subsequently indicted and besieged in his mountain cabin and his wife was killed by a sniper.
In 1991, an ATF Agent named Steve Martin begged a member of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club in Florida to supply him with guns so he would not be murdered by “Columbians.” And, gun running then became one of the principal charges leveled against the Warlocks in that investigation.
In 2007, an ATF Agent named Gregory Gaioni begged a Mongol named William Owens for methamphetamine. He needed the methamphetamine, Gaioni told Owens, to repay a debt. And, it was a big boy debt. Nils Johnson-Shelton might not be able to imagine such a debt. If he couldn’t obtain the drug, Gaioni claimed, he would be killed. So Owens, a recovering meth abuser, got his club brother the crank he needed to live. And last October Owens was charged with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of that packet of that drug.
Nor was the amount of the drug Gaioni begged for arbitrary. It was just enough of the drug to ensure that Owens would be faced with a mandatory ten year sentence. The Owens-Gaioni transaction was a classic example of what lawyers call “sentence entrapment.”
But so what? The only way an entrapment defense can be argued is at a trial. And, one of the government’s prime goals in this case is to make sure that neither Owens nor any of the other Mongols in this case ever actually stands trial. In prosecutor heaven everybody cooperates.
The United States Attorney’s office, holds all the cards which is the main reason so many federal defendants cooperate and confess whether they did what they confess or not. After “sentencing reform” in 1984, near the height of the cocaine panic, sentencing discretion was taken away from judges and given to prosecutors. That is not what was supposed to happen. No one ever intended to give that power to prosecutors. The idea was to crack down on liberal judges who were “soft on crime.” But every action has a reaction. And, the only constant in life is irony.
So Federal District Judges no longer have broad discretion about what sentence to impose on a criminal who pleads guilty to some particular charge: Say, hypothetically, a defendant pleads guilty to selling his annoyingly stupid friend and club brother an amount of an illegal drug that club brother claims to need to avoid getting himself killed. Sentence reform put an end to the actual amount of judgment a judge might exercise when he judges a situation like that.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, are perfectly free to use a couple of lawyerly strategies called “plea bargaining” and “charge bargaining.” Judges must impose certain sentences for certain crimes. Judges must read a piece of paper called a “sentencing table,” put their finger one a particular spot and read the prison sentence that appears there – like playing a board game. But, prosecutors get to decide which crimes the “bad people” are actually charged with.
It works like this: You can be arrested and detained for selling drugs, and talking about that drug sale, and talking about that drug sale on the telephone, and culminating that drug sale in your garage where you keep your gun and so on through however many charges the government wants to pile on you. But your wise and good prosecutor has the power to charge you with any or none of those “crimes.” If you cooperate, if you “take responsibility,” the prosecutor can charge you with something else. And, then you can plead guilty to that.
Come On Baby Let’s Take A Chance
Most of the charges alleged in the Mongols case almost fourteen months ago were filed in order to advance two cynical goals. First the charges were meant to publicize the motorcycle menace against which the ATF is selflessly protecting all of us. And also, the long list of charges – all carrying draconian punishments that not even a compassionate judge can mollify – were calculated to intimidate the defendants into cooperating. Consequently, many Mongols have acquiesced.
So far, all but one of the defendants who have pled guilty have pled guilty to Count One of the indictment. They have all confessed to “conspiring to conduct and participate in the conduct of the affairs of the Mongols through a pattern of racketeering activity.” And, the sentences imposed for this “crime” so far have ranged from probation to, in a couple of cases, as much as ten years. In every, single case cooperation has been rewarded.
Because every defendant has been charged with Count One, every defendant has faced up to twenty years in prison. Count One is in the indictment, because the last time “John Ciccone was not nearly as smart and wily as he is now and the Mongols escaped relatively unscathed.” The idea is that this time the Mongols will not escape unscathed.
The possibility that last time “the Mongols escaped relatively unscathed” because the last time the Mongols were relatively innocent does not even seem worthy of wondering out loud. I am not sure who even bothers to wonder if the indicted Mongols are guilty or innocent. The story line the ATF seems to have successfully promoted is that this case is really “the Mongols versus the civilized world!”
Count One, meanwhile, is a dog chasing his tail. The Mongols Motorcycle Club is criminal conspiracy because prosecutors have convinced defendants in this case to confess that they were part of the Mongols Motorcycle Club criminal conspiracy. So if Fifty-six guys “freely” confess to this, it must be true. A dog that is beaten until he learns to quack must be a duck because if it quacks it is a duck.
Let Us Go Then You And I
That is what happens in the justice casino.
Watching these confessions, one after another, week after week may be the single, most repellant public spectacle since Stalin. It makes me yearn for the lady and the donkey shows down in old Tijuana. Those spectacles were disgusting but at least they were disgusting in an interesting way. These guilty pleas are all disgusting in the most banal way.
I don’t know how the lawyers can stand it time after time. I don’t know how the judge can stand it. “How far did you advance in school,” the judge asks sweetly as she begins to verify the “competence” of the confessed.
And before he answers the wise defendant always whispers something to his lawyer. And, only after the lawyer whispers back does the defendant dare to say, “High school.” Or, “Ninth grade.”
“And, are you aware that you may be giving up certain of your rights, like the right to vote or own a gun or serve on a jury?”
Whisper, whisper. “Yeah, probably astronaut is also out of the question,” the lawyer advices confidentially.
Whisper, whisper, nod. The defendant answers the judge, “Yeah, right.”
“And are you in fact actually guilty?”
Whisper, whisper. Bitter, little laugh. And then the slight smile that means that the defendant is about to turn forever to stone. “Yeah. Guilty.”
The casino never pays off in justice because the casino does not need to dispense justice in order to survive. The prosecutor is not seeking justice. The prosecutor is an advocate for the ATF. This is not an equal “contest.” The prosecutor has all the time and all the money he wants. The prosecutor is not just dealing all the cards. The prosecutor own the card factory. The justice casino is not about justice. The casino is about feeding the beast. And, it all runs much more efficiently when the losers simply cooperate and negotiate in advance how much of their lives they are willing to lose.
“Thank you, your honor.”
“Thank you, your honor.”
That’s always my favorite part. As the Deputy Marshalls lead the “convicted” man away. As the opposing sides stuff files back into their expensive leather cases. Before they go out into the hall to smile about last summer in Rome or on the Costa del Sol. My very favorite part is when the lawyers thank the judge.
This is the spectacle Harry Reynolds has decided to challenge and this is the challenge I have come to Room 750 in the justice casino to see. Reynolds, through his attorney, has entered a motion that asks to be separated from the Mongols criminal conspiracy trial because, while he was a Mongol, he was never part of any Mongols criminal conspiracy.
“There are some bad actors among this group of men who are charged,” a lawyer for another defendant in the case complained to a judge last year, “and then there are some actors who are good or who are not bad or who are certainly not criminals.” The argument did not work a year ago but maybe it will work now.
Reynolds has been specifically charged with knowing about and watching a drug deal that conveyed no actual drugs and that was transacted between an ATF Undercover Agent pretending to be a Mongol and a confidential informant employed by the ATF. The government argues that because most of the people who witnessed this theatrical spectacle were Mongols it was crime committed on behalf of the Mongols “criminal conspiracy.”
Reynolds has replied that he was just there at the request of the ATF Agent who he had thought at the time was his friend. Reynolds and the other Mongols were there to make sure that their friend was not robbed. Reynolds even brought another man who had absolutely no connection to the club to help Reynolds protect his friend, the ATF Agent, from being robbed. And, none of the events that night had anything to do with Mongols club business so Reynolds wants to be tried separately.
Lawrence S. Middleton, the Assistant United States Attorney who wrote the reply to Reynolds’ motion, argues that “the firmly established rule (is) that generally, co-defendants should be tried together.” It still strikes me as a dog chasing his own tail. In Latin it is called petitio principii which means that the conclusion of an argument is contained in one of its premises. In the Mongols case it goes something like: The Mongols MC is a criminal conspiracy; therefore all the members of that conspiracy should be tried together; therefore Harry Reynolds should be tried to determine if he was a member of that conspiracy with all the other members of that conspiracy.
I want to see what the judge makes of that and I want to see what the judge makes of Reynolds’ other motion. Almost fourteen months after his arrest, Reynolds wants his lawyer to see: The “government’s witness list, expert witness materials, impeachment materials regarding any informants and cooperating witnesses in this case, and grand jury
transcripts.” Reynolds also wants the six plea deals that remain sealed to be unsealed.
The government objects to this, it seems, because to do so might make this case fairer than it should be. I am not a defendant in this case so I think the way the government has manipulated the discovery, or disclosure, of evidence in this case is hilarious. It would be less funny if one of the defendants was me.
So Tired, Tired Of Waiting
The trial of this case has been scheduled for four dates: December 16th, 2008; July 21st, 2009; November 24th 2009; and now April 13th, 2010 for the simple reason that not all of the defendants have yet been convinced to cooperate. The United States Attorney who brought the case, Thomas O’Brien, has quit and gone on to defend white collar criminals. The District Judge who has presided over this case, Florence-Marie Cooper, will retire a month before the next trial date. But the zombie prosecution refuses to die.
Since the arrests in October, 2008, the amount of evidence discovered in this case has roughly doubled. The stated reason why the case has been rescheduled three times is that it is “so unusual and so complex.” Really, the reason why it has not yet gone to trial is that the prosecution has done everything it can to keep the case from getting there.
In its reply to Reynolds motion, the prosecution even threatened Reynolds’ attorney with what is called an “evidence dump:” Which is to say the prosecution threatened to dump so much previously withheld evidence on Reynolds attorney, evidence which the prosecution has already carefully sorted and examined, that Reynolds’ attorney would never be able to make sense of it all in time for a trial.
In fact, all of the remaining defendants are threatened with evidence dumps. The prosecution, the U.S. Attorney assures the judge, will faithfully disclose all the information it is now holding about informants, Undercover Agents, secret testimony and allegations that have been made by up to six cooperating witnesses in this case “at least one week to 10 days prior to trial.”
Mistakes Were Made
The prosecution is not an advocate of truth. The prosecution is an advocate for the ATF. And, the ATF might be “embarrassed” if this case ever went to trial. Over and over again in ATF investigations of motorcycle clubs, examples of illegal or unethical behavior by Undercover Agents have been exposed. Usually by the time the book is published or the Gangland episode airs, a way is found to spin this misconduct or laugh it away.
For example, Agent Blake “Bo” Boteler did not assault a drunk with a deadly weapon during his infiltration of the Sons of Silence in 1998. His weapon “just missed” and the victim “fell over because he was drunk.” Boteler did not knock the man out cold. The victim only “passed out.” During the same investigation, Agent Jay “Bird” Dobyns did not assault a member of the Sons. Rather, entirely without provocation, that biker threatened to kill Dobyns and Dobyns’ family.
During the “Operation Ivan” investigation Agent William Queen won the club’s respect by beating up patrons in a bar. In an interview Queen explained he had to do it. “They (the Mongols) had that violent reputation. They’re all about violence…. They’re about violence. John Ciccone wanted to stop them…. If I had to fight I had to fight. The Mongols liked it. That’s the game that I had to play.”
So when the Mongols were violent they had to be stopped. When Queen was violent he was just playing a game.
Queen also very famously did not snort a line of crank in a motel room in Laughlin. Rather, at just the right moment Queen pretended to snort and brushed the drug onto the floor with his hand.
During “Black Biscuit,” the Angels investigation in Arizona, Dobyns famously did not sleep with a groupie a patch holder introduced to him. And, that case also largely fell apart because the government refused to disclose records of possibly illegal or unethical behavior on Dobyns part and the part of other agents and informers in that case.
Among the evidence the government has concealed in the Mongols case is the identities and histories of the informants who created this case. One to six of those informants are cooperating witnesses who, as part of their plea deals, have agreed to offer evidence against their fellow defendants. Only one of those former Mongols, Lars Wilson, is unequivocally cooperating with an ongoing investigation. The other five former Mongols who have sealed plea deals may actually be cooperating or may only be pawns in an ATF disinformation campaign to spread as much paranoia among the remaining defendants as possible
At least six, paid, confidential informants also participated in the investigation and it might be interesting to see how some of them hold up under cross-examination.
I have been told that Confidential Informant One is a former officer in both the Camarillo and Cypress Park chapters named T.J. Stansbury. Stansbury’s cooperation actually started Operation Black Rain in June, 2005 after he was arrested for mail fraud.
Ciccone used what are widely described to be his most excellent people skills on Stansbury and convinced the man to become a paid informant. Besides monetary compensation, the mail fraud charges against him were also dropped. “This informant,” according to public documents, provided “background information for both the organization and its members. CI-1 has also provided information regarding the organization’s structure, and the criminal activities engaged in by its members and associates.”
This first informant also, according to a statement made by Ciccone, introduced three ATF Agents to “various members of the Mongols OMG. CI-1 used the undercover ATF agents as conduits to conversations regarding narcotics and other illegal activity. Additionally, all three of the undercover agents made purchases of narcotics and firearms, observed the purchase of narcotics and firearms by Mongols members, and/or observed illegal firearms possession by Mongols members and associates.” In another words, in return for money and a get out of jail free card, rat number one told the ATF what the ATF wanted to hear.
Confidential Informant Two was known in the club by the name “Kaos,” and he is by far the most interesting of the informants. For at least four months, I have tried to find the connection between Kaos and an ATF Agent named Darrin P. Kozlowski.
Kaos claimed to be a former Chicago gangster. “We didn’t have a name, nothing,” Kaos explains on one wiretap. “We were just fucking selling dope. You know? Fucking dope organization.” Wire tap evidence exists that Kaos overtly tried to criminalize the Las Vegas chapter of the Mongols and that this attempted criminalization was opposed by other members of that chapter including Harry Reynolds.
Kaos, Rat number two, became according to a public document, “a documented ATF informant in or about October 2005,” about three months after Confidential Informant One. “At the time, CI-2 was a prospect of the Mongols Las Vegas chapter. During the period between October 2005 and February 2008, CI-2 became a ‘full-patched’ member and held the position of Sergeant-at-Arms.” After Harry Reynolds expelled Kaos from the Las Vegas chapter, “…CI-2 transferred from the Las Vegas chapter to the Las Vegas, Henderson chapter….”
“In May 2006, CI-2 introduced a fourth ATF undercover agent,” who told the club his name was J. Hollywood. This undercover agent’s legal name is John Carr. The conduct and behavior of all of these informants was flamboyant enough to attract attention in the club. According to a knowledgeable source, in 2008 Harry Reynolds remarked, “Hey, I think Kaos is a rat. And that dude Hollywood is a cop.” Carr was the Undercover Agent who had earlier invited Harry Reynolds to take part in a drug deal.
Three Four Five
I have never been able to confirm the identities of Confidential Informants Three and Four. CI-3 was paid by the ATF to inform on the Mongols San Diego East County chapter from March 30, 2006 until March 28,2007. CI-4 was not a member of the Mongols but arranged to purchase methamphetamine and a gun from two patched Mongols named Ricardo Gutierrez and Jaime Flores. CI-4 also introduced Confidential Informant Five to members of the club.
I believe that Confidential Informant Five was a Montebello, California Police Officer named Chris Cervantes and that Cervantes aspires to join the ATF. Cervantes was paid for his work by the ATF and he frequently posed as a criminal associate of Agent John “Hollywood” Carr. Cervantes, I have been told, was the other half of the multi-kilo cocaine transaction with which Harry Reynolds is now charged.
I have also concluded that Confidential Informant Six is a guy named Dan “Coconut Dan” Corrigan. And, I can understand why the prosecution would want to keep him off a witness stand. A source has described Corrigan as a man who “cannot read or write, is addicted to pain pills and thinks he talks directly to God.” The prosecution, however, convinced the Grand Jury that Corrigan was a credible spy. In a sworn affidavit late last year, Ciccone explained:
“In or about November 2006, I learned that ATF in Reno, Nevada had debriefed a CI (hereinafter ‘CI-6′) who agreed to become an informant for ATF in Reno. CI-6 has also been compensated for his cooperation. Since November 2006, CI-6 has been assisting ATF in Reno, Nevada and Los Angeles, California, by providing intelligence information and by documenting the criminal activity of members of the Mongols OMG. CI-6 has also purchased drug and firearms and has made introductions of ATF undercover agents in Reno, Nevada. Initially, CI-6 was the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Carson City chapter of the Mongols, but he later transferred to the Central chapter of the Mongols (Reno) and was appointed as President – a position he still holds. During the past year, CI-6 was also appointed as the Mongols ‘World chapter Sergeant-at-Arms.’ However, that position no longer exists.”
Actually it never did. The World Chapter seems to have been one of Doc Cavazos’ grander delusions. Frankly, six months ago when I started to pitch Out Bad, it was easy to think of Cavazos as a narcissist. But as bits and pieces of Operation Black Rain come together like a jigsaw puzzle, it is starting to look like even the World Chapter might have been suggested to Cavazos by employees of the United States government.
What Makes An Agent Tick
I have tried for at least a year to try to understand or even sympathize with the ATF Undercovers. After all, even outlaw bikers find joining a motorcycle club to be a life changing experience. So it is no surprise that it seems to be a life changing experience for federal cops, too. In countless public statements, to cite an obvious example, William Queen has bluntly described how loved he felt by the men whose lives he then tried to ruin. “They became my release,” Queen said a little more unguardedly than usual in an interview. “They became my buddies.”
But, I still do not get the joy in being Judas. I even asked Jay Dobyns to bare me a little of his soul. I asked even though I already understood that Dobyns is not the world’s most self-examined guy. About every two or three months, depending on whether or not I have something else to write, I accuse Dobyns of being crazy. So that is one of the first things Dobyns wanted me to know. That he is not crazy. No ATF employed psychiatrist ever diagnosed him as crazy.
“No shrink ever judged me crazy. ATF’s psyche doc did a post-case analysis of me. His conclusions were that I was fine. Those conclusions remained private and protected. Some ATF bosses who wanted to burn me down thought there might be a smoking gun there. They extorted my medical records from the Doc hoping to establish their argument but, I got the last laugh because when they got them, the Doc’s opinion was that I was healthy.”
So there went my intention to try to supervise with these guys by offering them an insanity defense.
Chatting With Jay
“What about Operation Black Biscuit,” I wanted to know. “Was it good for the ATF? Was it bad for Jay Dobyns?
“It was great for Jay Dobyns in a bad way,” he explained. “I spent my entire adult life working undercover. I became very good. I was the master of deception. I was intoxicated by walking into a lions’ den and convincing the lions I was one of them…someone to be trusted. Had I not been threatened, and had ATF not then begun fucking me over, I don’t think I could have pulled myself out of the role of Bird.
“ATF took it away from me because they knew it was something that I loved. That is what they do…. But, it was great for Jay Dobyns because it forced me free of Bird and I have mostly returned to who I was twenty-plus years ago – a goofy, silly, joking, fun loving, carefree person…. Not quite as lighthearted as I once was but closer.”
I still do not understand how the Undercovers do the hoodoo they do. I try to relate. I am often, personally, shy. I find it hard enough to be myself without pretending to be someone else. So I wonder, “During Black Biscuit did you ever feel ridiculous?”
“Did you ever believe the role you were playing?”
“Believe in the role, yes. I had to. If I didn’t believe the bullshit I was putting out then I couldn’t expect anyone else to.”
“Did you ever feel like you were in a movie? I am just asking you questions based on how I have felt in certain dramatic times in my life. Like leading men in combat. Did you ever get stage fright?”
“Movie, no. Nightmare, yes. Stage fright? Sure, I was always nervous. I just learned how to conceal it. Not unlike butterflies before an athletic event. I was not, am not a biker investigator. There are many of my peers who likely would have hurt the HA worse had they been selected for my role. I always played a thug and I just converted that role into a biker.”
Failure To Communicate
It is no use. I do not understand Jay. I never detect the slightest hint that anything he has ever done might have stained him with shame. I think Dobyns is much more proud of his life than I am of mine. So then I stop looking backward at how the ATF has done things in the past.
I begin to see that I cannot understand the Undercover ATF Agents who took part in Operation Black Rain by looking at the agents who investigated other operations. And, then a couple of things I have learned come roaring back up from the black hole in my head where forgotten things go.
“Luckily for the Mongols, Billy Queen was only average as an undercover agent and John Ciccone was not nearly as smart and wily as he is now,” T-Dogg wrote.
“I was not, am not a biker investigator,” Jay Dobyns told me. “There are many of my peers who likely would have hurt the HA worse had they been selected for my role.”
So I stop trying to sympathize with the Agents who the ATF thinks are better and improved over Agents like Dobyns and Queen. I start thinking of them as my least favorite animal. I start thinking of them as Cobras.
One of the “peers” Dobyns might have had in mind was Special Agent Kozlowski. Kozlowski, according to a usually informed source, joined the ATF in 1993 and if there is “senior biker investigator” in the ATF it is probably him. In his book about Operation Ivan, William Queen wrote: ” I’d watched with admiration and some awe as Koz worked the Vagos. I’d watched his backup agents bust their butts as they tried to keep up with him as he flew by the seat of his pants time and again. I’d heard his tales of uncanny, split-second thinking when the Vagos tried to rope him into criminal activity or get him to do drugs. I’d also watched as his investigation turned lethal.”
Kozlowski was working undercover in 1996. According to the same, usually informed source, shortly thereafter he attempted to infiltrate the American Outlaws Association in Florida. He was a member of the bogus Fort Lauderdale chapter of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club – a chapter in which every member was a cop. He has also been compensated as a speaker at outlaw motorcycle gangs courses. He knows how to get a story together. Kozlowski had a peripheral role in the investigation of the Sons of Silence. And he has been a trusted colleague of John Ciccone for more than fifteen years.
Kozlowski also seems to be totally free of the emotional after burn that afflicted “average” agents like Queen and Dobyns. In fact, Kozlowski is such a charismatic guy that Confidential Informant Two, the rat known as Kaos, actually borrowed most of his biography from Koz.
Say Kaos Koz Real Fast
Kaos claimed to be a gangster from Wisconsin by way of Chicago. Kozlowski is from Bolingbrook, Illinois and lived briefly in West Bend, Wisconsin. Kaos briefly extricated himself from the investigation after his “mother died in Chicago.” Kozlowski went home to his mother’s funeral in Bolingbrook in February, 2008.
The Mongols case is crawling like rotten meat with official mysteries. I think the connection between Kaos, the Las Vegas and Henderson patch holder and Kozlowski, the Montebello patch holder is one of the more interesting ones. To hear it unraveled I will probably have to pay $150 and flash a badge at a secret police educational event. Or maybe I will get lucky. Maybe a bright and opinionated reader named T-Dogg will shed a little light on the subject in some future comment. According to a trusted, confidential source, after his mother’s funeral Kaos “rarely came around to any events or runs. He pretty much helped get Hollywood into the club and then disappeared.”
Maybe T-Dogg or some official or unofficial spokesman for the ATF might also someday shed a little light on the murder of a Mongol named Manuel “Hitman” Martin. The mystery of Martin’s murder is enhanced by an almost magical chain of official coincidences.
Why October Ninth
After looking at the ATF investigation as a whole it seems to me that there were several logical places to have ended it. Doc Cavazos was expelled from the club at the end of August and the investigation could have ended then but it continued. A Mongol named Christopher Ablett shot and killed Mark “Papa” Guardado, the President of the Frisco charter of the Hells Angels around Labor Day and Operation Black Rain could have ended then but it did not. Instead it ended shortly after October 9th.
On October 7th, 2008 Martin and numerous other Mongols attended a party at a bar. Three ATF Agents, including Kozlowski, attended that party that night and according to multiple, reliable sources the ATF Agents spent much of that night trying to start a fight with the bar’s bouncers and other patrons.
And also, there were actually two, separate ATF investigations continuing that night in that northeastern corner of Los Angeles. Besides the Mongols, the ATF was investigating a neighborhood clique, believed to be in some way affiliated with La Eme, the Mexican Mafia. The clique is named Toonerville Rifa. (The Toonerville neighborhood was one of the last trolley lines to disappear in old Los Angeles.) And, I have also been told that a member of the Toonerville clique was in the bar where the Mongols partied that night and that he was harassed by the three ATF agents, especially by Darrin Kozlowski.
The three ATF agents left the bar early – about 90 minutes before Manuel Martin. And, as Martin, 30, of Venice, California was riding home in the early morning hours of October 8th he was shot off his motorcycle by an as-yet-unnamed assailant.
After the shooting, the police were extraordinarily coy. The next morning Sergeant Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department speculated that the shooting might have been a “case of road rage.” Lorenz went on to say “We are investigating whether or not it does involve an outlaw motorcycle gang. At this particular time, we have not confirmed it.”
Police did reveal, however, that Martin had been shot 13 times. Which would point to an execution by someone affiliated with the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, the M, or in Spanish, la Eme. The earliest news accounts were that Martin had been “shot at” 13 times. But the “news” accounts did not reveal how anyone could have known that.
All of this police account is generously leavened with new, improved, fast acting blather. Ciccone has claimed over and over in official documents that cooperating witnesses were in danger from the Mexican Mafia. Six plea deals remain sealed, the official explanation goes, because those six men are in danger from the Mexican Mafia. In the Gangland episode, Doc Cavazos claimed that a score of Mongols had been killed by La Eme. And there was actual shooting between a Latino clique named Gage Maravilla and the Mongols. Doc’s brother, Al “The Suit” Cavazos, was allegedly wounded by members of that clique. Late last Spring, the government leaked an allegation that members of Gage Maravilla had been killed by Mongols and the bodies had been burned in the desert.
That’s a great image isn’t it? If you were a writer wouldn’t you love to write that scene? But there is still not much evidence that La Eme was green lighting Mongols late in 2008.
La Eme Menace
In fact, just last week a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant named Mark Bailey told the San Gabriel Valley News: “The motorcycle gang is mobile and not territorial like street gangs, and members don’t tend to have problems with each other…. About four years ago the Mongols had a disagreement over drug sales with the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang that controls Latino street gangs in Southern California. The Mexican Mafia put a “green light” on Mongols members, or a go-ahead for gang members to kill them on-sight.” But now, “The dispute seems to be over, Bailey said.”
The official story purports that a man on a motorcycle going 70 miles an hour on a Los Angeles freeway in the dark was shot not once or twice or five times, which happens to be closer to the truth, but exactly thirteen times by a man in a car that was also moving 70 miles an hour. The shooter did not merely count 13 shots. He counted the hits at 70 miles an hour in the dark and he did not stop until Martin had been hit 13 times. Who besides John Ciccone and Julian Sher actually believes that?
Kozlowski immediately told other Mongols that Martin had been murdered by Toonerville. Not every Mongol jumped to that conclusion but several Mongols remember the vehemence with which Kozlowski made the assertion. “It was like he was trying to start a war,” one Mongol told me.
Los Angeles police announced the case to be solved after nine months of silence. In early July 2009, ten members of the Toonerville clique were arrested in a series of dramatic raids. The actual killer of Manuel Martin had been arrested earlier “by another police agency,” the police account asserted. And the motive was supposed to be to an ongoing feud between Doc Cavazos, who had been expelled from the club five weeks before the shooting, and La Eme. The story was reported internationally. The dramatic and telling detail about the 13 shots was also reported internationally. And no one ever questioned whether such a feat of marksmanship with a handgun was even possible.
One thing that is undeniable about Hitman Martin’s murder is that it did bring a speedy close to Operation Black Rain. Martin died about 3 am on October 8th. The United States Attorney presented the Grand Jury with an indictment against 79 Mongols on October 9th. The Martin murder ended the investigation.
Here Come Da Judge
So, six days before Thanksgiving, 2009 I go to the justice casino hoping to learn something about the secrets the ATF keeps. I ride the bike. I have made the trip enough times to know the sign on the 110 Freeway that points me to the 5 Freeway is really pointing me to the 101 South. I park in the same lot I always park, stuff the jacket in a saddlebag and stuff my little four by nine reporter’s notebook in my back pocket. I am pretty sure I am dressed well enough to enter a court.
I am wearing my best flannel shirt. I have even pressed the color. I just washed the jeans last week. And I am wearing my best, drugstore cowboy boots – the deer tan leather ones with the red flames and the big skulls on the sides. Of course, after I get inside I realize everyone thinks I am a bum or maybe an escapee.
I go into the court room and wait until a bailiff comes around. He asks me what I am doing there. I tell him and he tells me to get my ass outside. “Go wait in the hall.”
There is hardly anyone around. Besides the Bailiff, the only other person waiting for the hearing to start is a blonde in a grey, silk suit who looks like the young Ellen Barkin. I don’t know who she is.
We all wait patiently. We all grow bored. The bailiff keeps trying to strike up a conversation with the blonde in the nice suit and she is polite but she is too good for bailiffs. She looks good enough to date U.S. Attorneys. She looks like she deserves a summer on the Costa del Sol. The bailiff gives up and struts off down the shiny, stone hall vowing to “find out what is going on.”
I give the blonde a go. Why not? I get as far into my game as the part where I make her laugh. Then the bailiff comes back. “The hearing is cancelled,” he tells the blonde but not me. “The judge called in sick today.”