There is an old joke in Los Angeles.
The President wants to know who has the best police force so he releases a rabbit into a forest and tells cops from every city to go find it. Three minutes later the Los Angeles Police Department drives out of the forest with a bloody and beaten bear. “Make them stop,” the desperate bear begs the President. “I confess! I’m a rabbit.”
Blaire L. Malkin, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia and the man prosecuting the current Pagans case titled United States versus Barbeito and others, would never understand that joke. On Thursday, Malkin re-indicted 37 of 55 defendants named in a racketeering indictment last October.
Since that earlier indictment was unsealed, 17 defendants have confessed to being rabbits. One defendant, Charles H. Nichols, died in police custody. The superseding indictment also accuses a New Jersey man named Dante T. Demarco of beating up a suspected police informant.
Both indictments accuse the Pagans Motorcycle Club of being “a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in kidnapping, robbery, extortion and conspiracy to commit murder.” The indictment also asserts that “the purposes of the enterprise included…enriching the members and associates of the enterprise through, among other things, extortion, robbery and the operation of an illegal gambling business.”
The accusations honestly describe the reality of what the defendants did approximately as a bear may be honestly mistaken for a rabbit. Either Blaire L. Malkin has been misled by his subordinates, or he is very stupid or he is a pathological liar.
Summary of Crimes
For the most part defendants have been accused of very banal offenses. The former Pagans Vice-President, Floyd B. Moore, apparently actually considered murdering a woman as a favor to the woman’s ex-boyfriend who happened to be the President of a chapter of the Avengers Motorcycle Club. The woman was never harmed but Moore did consider the crime. However that charge was dropped when Moore agreed to plead guilty to racketeering and that, in itself, testifies to the priorities of the prosecution.
The fact that the conspiracy to murder charge was dropped at least suggests that the government viewed that accusation as a means to an end. Conspiracy to murder is a dramatic accusation. In Moore’s case it was a way to get leverage over a defendant who might discredit the Pagans. And, conspiracy to murder is included in the superseding indictment for the same insincere reasons.
Other defendants are accused of physical assaults which seem intended to shock citizens who have never heard of professional ice hockey. Some defendants are accused of possessing small amounts of explosives. And that charge will probably most offend anyone who has never read the memoirs of Hunter S. Thompson.
A defendant who was not a Pagan confessed to asking a club officer to collect a large debt for him. That explains the accusation of extortion. At one point, the patch of a member of another club was pulled so that is described as a kidnapping and robbery.
Most of the charges against the remaining defendants stem from either participating in a fund raising raffle or from “acting as bodyguards for a convicted felon.” The raffle is described in the indictment as “the operation of an illegal gambling business.” None of the men accused of acting as bodyguards for a felon knew that what they were doing was a crime.
Who could ever imagine that each of Snoop Dogg’s bodyguards is guilty of a federal crime? And, when can we expect them to be charged? And, will the arrests be on television?
The government knows its case against the Pagans is made mostly of fairy dust and bull feathers and they already know what a jury will think of a case that is mostly semantic.
So twelve days ago the prosecution asked the court for “an order prohibiting the defendants from introducing irrelevant and inadmissible evidence and arguments at trial.” And by that, the government meant any argument, such as has been presented here, that suggests that the remaining charges are trivial and hardly describe a racket.
“The United States has reason to believe that the defendants will attempt to assert arguments or offer evidence whose sole purpose is to encourage jury nullification,” the government complains. “For example, whether the underlying state law violation in the Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering charges or the Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering Act charges was a misdemeanor, and their ignorance of the law regarding the illegal raffle and regarding (the ‘bodyguard statute.’) Such arguments and evidence would be irrelevant and inadmissible and must be excluded from trial.”
In other words, any reasonable person must be compelled to agree that a bear is a rabbit. And a motorcycle club is a racket.