The federal case against the Pagans Motorcycle Club in Charleston, West Virginia continues to dry up and blow away. The earliest any trial will begin now is June 4th.
This Titanic fiasco may not get far. Last week, 13 of the remaining defendants pled guilty to a misdemeanor, state gambling offense and paid a five dollar fine. The men had originally been charged with racketeering. One of the defense attorneys who has been eating the prosecution’s lunch in this case, Tom Gillooly, told Andrew Clevenger of the Charleston Gazette, “a five dollar fine and court costs is laughable compared to a federal felony. I was disappointed that the prosecution wasn’t willing to step up and dismiss these charges, because they never should’ve been charged in the first place.”
Loew Loses Voice
Steven Loew, the lead prosecutor in the case has suddenly gone mute, although he did sign to Clevenger that it is “the policy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to comment on pending cases.” Which is apparently a new policy that was instituted right after it became obvious to everybody except Entertainment Tonight that Loew has done something even worse than lose this case. Because back before Christmas Loew had more to say than a little girl on Santa’s lap.
Apparently Loew just assumed that all the defense attorneys were going to take the payday and the plea deal. It did not work out that way. Laurie Levenson, a nationally known professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles has described the case so far as defense attorneys playing “street hockey” while the “prosecutors play chess.”
Gillooly even raised the big question. “The most disturbing thing about this prosecution is what it shows about priorities being set in the U.S. attorney’s office,” he told Clevenger. “It’s outrageous to me to have my tax dollars and your tax dollars going towards a case like this instead of environmental violations, mine safety violations, terrorism, you name it.”
RICO And Motorcycle Clubs
But losing this one case may be the least of the damage Loew has done to federal cases everywhere. For decades, federal prosecutors have been using the Racketeer Influenced Criminal Organization statutes to try to criminalize membership in motorcycle clubs. In some cases, like the never ending Mongols case in California, the government has come close to succeeding. Now, a federal judge in a high-profile case is finally questioning the reasonableness of that.
In a briefing order filed eight days ago the presiding judge in this case, Thomas E. Johnston, asked “for the input of all interested parties for a briefing – including those who have (already) entered guilty pleas” on all RICO aspects of the case.
“In particular,” Johnston wrote, “the Court anticipates briefing on the following counts: Count 1, which charges racketeering…. Count 2, which charges a conspiracy to commit racketeering…. Counts 3, 6, and 9, which charge conspiracies to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering…. Count 4, which charges retaliation against a witness…. Counts 7 and 8, which charge conspiracies to use an interstate facility in aid of a racketeering enterprise…. Count 11, which charges interstate travel in aid of racketeering…. Count 13, which charges obstruction of justice…. Count 16, which charges obstruction of justice…. Counts 19 and 21, which respectively charge a conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. 922(h) in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, and a substantive violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(h) and 922(a)(2).”
The judge ordered the attorneys to present memoranda relating to these charges by Friday. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for next Tuesday.
It is not inconceivable that most of the case will be dismissed within two weeks.