Kevin O’Neill, a member of the American Outlaws Association currently confined to a cage, recently posted a nice piece on Indicia Search Warrants. If you have not yet read it yet you can find O’Neill’s essay at fedsgonebad.blogspot.com.
Indicia (pronounced in-DISH-hee-uh) is a legal term that means “signs” or “indications” and it is the pretext for most of the search warrants executed against members of motorcycle clubs. It is a crime to belong to a racket. When the police are allowed to begin an investigation with the conclusion that a motorcycle club is a racket then they may legally search for evidence of membership in that club. The residence of every patch holder, prospect and most hang-arounds will contain if not a patch then at least a bandanna, buckle, support shirt, or a wall calendar.
Bastardized Law Enforcement
O’Neill calls such warrants a “bastardized law enforcement tool” and only a Bolshevik would argue with him. By definition, a patch holder will be holding a patch in his home so an indicia warrant provides an excuse to search any patch holder’s home at any time if you simply remember to accuse his club of being a racket first. And, since these warrants are served on bikers they are always served by a SWAT Team in full, flamingly flamboyant costume. Last fall, a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club named James Hicks was gunned down in front of his wife Cathy in his own kitchen during the service of an indicia warrant.
Because even good citizens who abhor the idea of motorcycle clubs would be appalled to know what got James Hicks killed that warrant has never been made public. This page has seen the warrant and it lists as “Items to be seized” from Hicks’ home “PMC members’ colors and club memorabilia such as patches, shirts, cuts, jewelry, belts, wristbands, wallets, walking sticks, posters, glassware, statues, plaques, business cards or club cards and the PMC constitution or any document containing PMC membership information or PMC rules.” The items actually seized from Hicks’ home included a “shotgun, a bank statement, assorted photos, (2) motorcycle helmets, MC Club patches, 2 Pagan walking sticks, camera, Samsung video camera” and “assorted ammunition.”
Happy New Year
Last New Year’s Eve the less tragic victims of an indicia warrant were members of O’Neill’s old club, the Outlaws. Sheriff J.J. Jones of Knox County, Tennessee, which surrounds Knoxville, decided to wreck the sedate celebration at the AOA clubhouse there. The raid, Sheriff Jones candidly admitted, was because the Outlaws deserved it. “These guys are a menace to society,” Jones told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “Everything they stand for is illegal.”
“They’re involved in every illegal activity known to man,” Jones then told television station WLVT. “Prostitution, methamphetamine.” Probably if he had been less tongue tied from being on television, Jones could have gone on to list exotic bird smuggling and stock fraud. The one, particular, illegal thing about a dozen people were doing at 9 pm when the local SWAT attacked the clubhouse with concussion grenades, was they were eating a platter of cold cuts.
“They totally destroyed the house, they took everything out of there,” Mark Lester, a regional officer of the club and one of two men actually arrested that night, told the News Sentinel this week. “They took all our TVs, our microwaves. … It was just really crazy stuff. All they found was some alcohol and sandwich platters.”
Lester and the local chapter President, Kenneth Foster, were charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. Lester, has three previous convictions. He was a “disorderly person” in 1984, he ran a stop sign ten years later and he was charged with reckless driving a year after that. Foster was arrested twice in 1984 for misdemeanor drug possession.
Lester told the Knoxville paper that “the most painful loss was that of a group of stone monuments in the clubhouse yard that had been set up to memorialize fallen Outlaws.”
“The stones in the front yard for brothers who have died over the last 15 years, they dug those up and took them,” Lester said. “It was just ridiculous.”
The pretense for the raid was a search for indicia. The stone markers in the front yard were seized because they are indicia. The microwave was probably seized because it had a “Support Your Local Outlaws” sticker on it. Still there was one specific piece of Outlaws indicia that was not found.
At the time of the official police pillaging the usual news media were advised and reported that the raid was the culmination of a 14-month-long “undercover investigation.” The “investigation” was carried out by a guy named Joseph Linger who was widely indentified as an “undercover officer” but who appears more to have actually been a paid confidential informant or an opportunist.
Linger, once worked as a small town cop in Alaska, eventually rose to become a Knox County jail employee and as recently as sixteen months ago, when he began hanging around the Knoxville Outlaws, he was working as a bouncer at a nightclub in Gatlinburg. Presumably, he now has a financial arrangement with the Knox County Sheriff that includes the honorary title “undercover officer.” The raid was based on an 18-page affidavit sworn and attested to by Linger. And, like many tales told by many confidential informants it is a sordid and colorful mix of drugs, sex, illegal weapons, and a “propensity for violence.”
Linger explains that last December 23rd Lester and Foster somehow discovered that he was working for the local police and demanded that he surrender his colors, get out and never come back. Linger charges that the two AOA officers took the vest from him at gun point. Lester and Foster maintain that they did not need a gun.
The New Year’s Eve was all about that vest. The alleged robbery was the confiscation of Linger’s vest. The kidnapping was presumably the time it took to pull the colors off the informant’s back. The vest was not located during the raid. Police are still searching for it.
So there may be more SWAT raids. Maybe on Valentine’s Day. Whatever you do, don’t buy your old lady flowers in your club’s colors.