The Pagans Motorcycle Club case in Charleston, West Virginia has become a laboratory of ways to defend motorcycle clubs against racketeering prosecutions.
A small, hard core of defense lawyers in the case have been fighting the fundamental assumption that underlies these cases: Which is, briefly stated, that police bureaucracies want motorcycle clubs portrayed as criminal rackets; so media sensationalists who depend on police cooperation have obligingly portrayed motorcycle clubs in that way; so everybody knows that motorcycle clubs are rackets; so they must be; so motorcycle clubs have no right to cower behind legal technicalities like the Constitution in trying to assert their innocence.
Even when they do not advance this story, some of the arguments these lawyers have raised are eloquent and true and you should hear them anyway. You won’t hear them on television. A guy named Andrew Clevenger has been doing a much better than average job of covering this case for the Charleston Gazette but you will not read them there either. So if you are going to hear them at all you are stuck with this page.
On Indicia Warrants
An attorney named Thomas J. Gillooly who represents a defendant named Sergio Velez Cuevas has been thundering like a travelling evangelist about indicia warrants for weeks.
“The Government’s argument (for these warrants),” Gillooly argues, “amounts to an assertion of the power to issue a general warrant. The Fourth Amendment was adopted to do away with general warrants.”
“The Government, as represented in this prosecution, apparently believes that if it has established probable cause for some criminal violation, by someone, it may search for contraband or evidence of anything it pleases. The Government’s misunderstanding (or worse) of its proper role under the Constitution, as evidenced by the warrant and search in this case, is reiterated in its Response to Defendant’s Motion to Suppress.”
“It was in enforcing the laws licensing the publication of literature and, later, in prosecutions for seditious libel that general warrants were systematically used in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. In Tudor England officers of the Crown were given roving commissions to search where they pleased in order to suppress and destroy the literature of dissent, both Catholic and Puritan. In later years warrants were sometimes more specific in content, but they typically authorized the arrest and search of the premises of all persons connected with the publication of a particular libel, or the arrest and seizure of all the papers of a named person thought to be connected with a libel.”
“The Government’s actions in this case, and its arguments in defense of what it has done,” Gillooly concludes, “are repugnant to the Constitution and must be rejected.”
And On Surplusage
Meanwhile, an attorney named Deirdre Purdy who represents a defendant named Richard Timothy Weaver has been attacking the inflammatory and prejudicial language in both the original and the superseding indictments. This language, as in most of these indictments is very unfair and besides the point. The legal term for these words is surplusage.
“The Government cannot successfully charge these defendants as criminals, simply because they are Pagans Motorcycle Club members,” Purdy wrote last week. “There could not be a more prejudicial statement in an indictment than that the defendants are criminals, by virtue of membership in the Pagans Motorcycle Club and that their every act as Pagans members is a criminal act. That is not just a charge of a violation of the law, but a statement that guilt is a foregone conclusion, based solely on these defendants’ organizational association.”
The trial is scheduled to begin next month.