Now plea deals are starting to bounce in the federal racketeering case in Charleston West Virginia against members and associates of the Pagans Motorcycle Club.
A hard core of the defense lawyers in this case have refused to just roll over for the prosecution like good legal professionals, and wave their little white flags in the air, and tell their clients to take the deal. Probably what happened was the defendants in that other motorcycle club RICO case, the Mongols case, hired all the good legal professionals. So the Pagans got stuck My Cousin Vinnie.
For weeks the Vinnies have been screaming that the government made a beginning of an end in this case by just assuming that the Pagans is a racket. The prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney Steven Ian Loew, still seems astounded that any lawyer might not understand the simple logic that the Pagans is a racket, because some Pagans have been coerced into signing plea deals in which they agree that the Pagans is a racket, which proves that the Pagans is a racket.
Yesterday it became obvious that the judge in the case, Thomas E. Johnston (photo above,) has not only been listening to the Vinnies but they might be starting to make sense to him.
The Schmidt Deal
About a month ago a defense attorney named Anthony F. List negotiated a plea agreement for a defendant in the case named Joseph J. Schmidt. The deal guaranteed that Schmidt would only be sentenced for a base level twelve offense which means he would probably only have to serve a sentence of ten to 16 months. He had been threatened by Lowe with five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
In order to get the deal Schmidt had to confess in writing to a “stipulation of facts” that he was “a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club;” that as a Pagan “Mr. Schmidt and others were required to sell raffle tickets for a purported chance to win a motorcycle;” and that after the tickets were sold “Mr. Schmidt and other members of the Pagans traveled from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and elsewhere to Saint Albans, Kanawha County, West Virginia, in the Southern District of West Virginia and delivered the proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets to” former Pagans Vice-President Jesse Moore.
For that, attorney List was able to get his client off with a mere ten to 16 months.
Schmidt works as a heavy equipment operator in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. The raffle proceeds he delivered amounted to $100. He never knew he was committing a crime. The felony conviction would mean that he would lose his job and his union seniority. It also meant that he would lose some of his rights as a citizen. On his attorney’s advice, he signed the deal.
What Did He Do
But all pleas must be accepted by the presiding judge in the case. And when Judge Johnson read over Schmidt’s plea he said, “It’s unclear to me from this stipulation exactly what Mr. Schmidt did. Was he delivering raffle proceeds on behalf of his club president?”
Loew told the judge that the government had a theory of the crime. And, that theory was that the Pagans were a racket and that Schmidt was delivering proceeds from the Pagans “illegal gambling racket” up the line. In RICO prosecutions, prosecutors routinely try to prove that money moved from the bottom of an organization to the top.
List told the judge that he had urged his client to take the plea because he was afraid he could not get his client a fair trial. “The sentiment seems to be, the Pagans are not loved in West Virginia, they are not loved in this area,” List explained, “and he is scared to roll the dice with a jury.”
Johnson replied that he did not “care about the tactical decision. I’m not going to take a plea without a factual basis. Period.”
Schmidt then withdrew his plea. A hearing on motions to dismiss charges against numerous defendants in the case is scheduled for next Monday, March 15th. List added a motion to dismiss the charges against his client to the docket for that day.