Feds Still Seek Mongols Marks

May 13, 2010

All Posts, News

Because justice moves majestically, like a mighty snail, the government is still technically trying to seize the Mongols patch.

Unless you were one of the indicted men, the RICO case named for former club President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos was always the least important half of this government attack on the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The big issue was always whether Americans have the right to be Mongols, Hells Angels, Vagos, Pagans, Outlaws, Bandidos, Boy Scouts, mariachis, Masons, mummers or nuns. This was the great attempted funny hat ban.

As the Las Vegas Sun put it in October 2008, “The most compelling detail to emerge from ‘Operation Black Rain’ is this: Prosecutors won the right Wednesday to bar the indicted Mongols from owning anything bearing their trademarked logo.”

HUH!?

As a matter of fact, prosecutors never had that right. What the then judge in the case, the late Honorable Florence Marie Cooper, had told the prosecutors that they could do was “keep safe” the trademarks associated with the motorcycle club. The idea, which is common in RICO cases, was to keep a disputed asset from disappearing.

But prosecutors and ATF Agents associated with the case, especially Thomas O’Brien who was then a United States Attorney and John Ciccone, who is still a well known and respectfully regarded ATF Agent, spun Judge Cooper’s restraining order to its logical absurdity. Both men told anyone who would listen that the restraining order “empowered police” who saw “anyone in possession” of any Mongols indicia to “stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back.”

This lie was repeated and made true a thousand times. People’s homes were raided by Swat teams in search of Mongols calendars, posters and bandannas. Government agents committed burglaries to get at Mongols paraphernalia. At one point, John Walsh spent several moments on America’s Most Wanted explaining the evil represented by Mongols support tee-shirts.

Rivera

This entirely arbitrary ban by police almost succeeded. It was in force for a full nine months. Attorneys acting on behalf of the club seemed to stammer and the legal case devolved for awhile into an argument over who signed the trademark papers last and were they authorized to do that. This ban eventually failed because of the efforts of two men: A Mongols patch holder named Ramon Rivera and a San Diego civil liberties attorney named David Blair-Loy.

Rivera filed suit to stop the seizures of Mongols indicia and Blair-Loy constructed arguments that showed Judge Cooper what was really going on. Last July, Judge Cooper ruled that motorcycle club patches are constitutionally protected “collective membership marks” and she told the government to stop stealing them. She wrote:

“In contrast to commercial trademarks, which are used in commerce and generally not entitled to full First Amendment protections, collective membership marks are used by members of an organization to ‘indicate membership in a union, an association, or other organization.’ The use and display of collective membership marks therefore directly implicate the First Amendment’s right to freedom of association. The Supreme Court has recognized that ‘implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment’ is ‘a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.’ This right is crucial in preventing the majority from imposing its views on groups that would rather express other, perhaps unpopular, ideas.’ Furthermore, clothing identifying one’s association with an organization is generally considered expressive conduct entitled to First Amendment protection….”

Did Cooper’s Ruling Count

Since then government attorneys have done everything they can to try to wiggle around Judge Cooper’s ruling. Principally, the Department of Justice has tried to hold onto this tool against motorcycle clubs by delaying a “summary judgment” in the Rivera case. So far prosecutors have just barely succeeded with that delay but their sand is running out.

It is the law, so it is tedious, but briefly stated: First the government “voluntarily suspended” seizure of Mongols insignia and souvenirs. Rivera asked for a summary judgment in his suit and the government replied that they had already “voluntarily suspended” doing what they never should have done in the first place so the issue was moot.

Despite Judge Cooper’s ruling, last December federal prosecutors in Charleston, West Virginia announced that they were seeking: “The trade-name, trade-mark and/or service-mark ‘PAGAN’S’” and “related logo/design” “together with any and all common law rights of…” “any of its members to the usage of such image and name and, further, together with any and all associated good will and reputation.”

Then Judge Cooper died last January and before her body was even cold ATF Supervisor John Torres told a Los Angeles paper, “That process (of outlawing Mongols insignia) is still moving forward. No one has ‘won’ the case. It’s just the message that we want to put out to them and other gangs that may use the same type of indicia to identify themselves.”

When asked for clarification by this page, a government spokesman stated: “The government continues to seek the forfeiture of the Mongols trademarks. The issue is the subject of ongoing litigation in the courts, and we will continue to fight to prevent anyone from using the trademark to indicate any affiliation with the criminal organization.”

New Judge

The government’s working premise seemed to be that the constitutional protection Judge Cooper had recognized in motorcycle club symbols was only her peculiar notion. So it might be dismissed by a less sentimental and more hard-headed judge. And, then the government seemed to get what it wanted when the Rivera case eventually was taken over by another judge – a reputedly hard-headed ex-Marine – named David O. Carter.

Then, about two weeks ago, Judge Carter refused to dismiss Rivera’s motion for a summary judgment. He has not issued that judgment yet. He may not issue it for months. But, what is now clear is that Carter obviously agrees with Judge Cooper. Americans have a constitutional right to wear anything they want on their backs. Motorcycle clubs have a right to exist and men may join any club they wish.

Americans can even wear funny hats.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUa30uCyU9I

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14 Responses to “Feds Still Seek Mongols Marks”

  1. Bruce Says:

    AT THE END OF THE DAY, THE ONLY MARKS THAT MATTER ARE THE INDELIBLE ONES THE MONGOLS HAVE EMBLAZONED IN THE PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, FOREVER. WHAT CLUB COULD ASK FOR MORE? THEY HAVE SUCCESSFULLY CREATED A VIRTUAL BRANDING THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN COME CLOSE TO; NO OUTLAW CLUB, NO CORPORATION. THEIR PLIGHT HAS BROUGHT INTO LIVING COLOR THE THEME OF THEIR EXISTENCE IN THIS LIFE, AND THE NEXT; MONGOLS FOREVER, FOREVER MONGOLS. THROUGH THE LIFE OF THEIR EXISTENCE THESE MEN HAVE COME A LONG WAY FROM THE METAL CONTAINER CLUBHOUSE ON VALLEY BLVD., AND HAVE CONTINUALLY EVOLVED BEYOND A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH; IT IS PLAIN AND SIMPLE, THEY OWN CALIFORNIA, PATCH, OR NO PATCH. IT’S NOT SO MUCH WHAT YOU WEAR, IT’S MORE ABOUT THE LEGACY YOU CREATE.

  2. Apple Pie Says:

    Hate to hear that the new judge is dragging his feet but it really shouldn’t have taken the other judge so long to smack the FEDS hands…oh well…anyway the Pagans trademark was in play at one point but the 2 members left in WV are flying theirs every chance they get…good for them…

  3. Aerrin Says:

    DirtyBruin: You have a point. A very, very good point. lol

  4. DirtyBruin Says:

    Aerrin asks, “How does a 90 year old grandmother know the difference between a H.O.G. member and a Hells Angel?”

    The HA remembers to put his feet down at a stop light. ;)

  5. Aerrin Says:

    Well said, Sled Tramp, DocB, Oilslick. I like the ride on Washington D.C. idea.

    It’s not just motorcycle clubs feeling the First Amendment crunch. Even the local Tea Party here in Georgia has been feeling it. We were all treated to news stories about how racist and backwards the Tea Party was up until someone managed to convert the local newspaper owner. Now the newspaper bashes all the other local media for attempting to squish the Tea Party via bad press coverage.

    I guess my point is that if we reach out to the community, we’re likely to find that more people sympathize with a First Amendment fight than we’d think. Let’s face it, if “outlaw” clubs lose the right to wear their patch, will the government stop there? Veterans’ groups wear leather vests and ride motorcycles too. Those darn Patriot Guard Riders insist on attending funerals and giving the cops a headache. How does a 90 year old grandmother know the difference between a H.O.G. member and a Hells Angel? And why stop at motorcycle groups? I hear little girls wear uniforms and peddle cookies nationwide. Sounds like a criminal conspiracy to me.

    ~Aerrin

  6. cdgridr Says:

    oh man, im dying with the fish thing..

  7. Oilslick Says:

    sled tramp,
    You got that right on the nail. It’s happening everywhere and not one club is immune to the “largest gang in the world” tactics.

    DocB,
    Great analogy. Between you and sled tramp we could get a national movement started for a ride on Washington D.C.

    Here in Arizona there is action being taken in the form of the “First Amendment Rescue Movement” or F.A.R.M. I’m not sure if it is a nationwide movement or not. It would be a great day if we could all set aside differences across the nation for a cause bigger than any single club. It needs to be done or we’ll all be subject to these atrocities eventually.

    The feds need to be reminded who they work for and for what purpose.
    The police state “they” envision is unacceptable.

    Respects to those who fought the fight,
    Oilslick

  8. suave Says:

    Saw them flying about 3 weeks ago when i was at the beach, found this vid think it was the same time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBdkBb9xXUY

  9. JAMES Says:

    Whether or not this should ever come to pass and I lose the right to wear my CLUB INSIGNIA, meaning MY PATCH or anything related to it will never change who and what I am and who are my BROTHERS, but I will continue to fight for the right to FLY.

  10. DocB Says:

    Thanks Sled

    When I was a kid I kept tropical fish. Big tropical fish in 50 galon tanks. Big agressive fish. I called them biker fish. You couldn’t put more than 6 of em in a tank cause they were verry teritorial. The dominant fish went anywhere he wanted and everybody else moved. Second fish went anywhere he wanted except where the dominant fish was, and so on down the line. Fish #6 moved around a lot or got his ass kicked. Used to smoke dope and watch fish for hours.
    Whenever I put my arm in a tank to do maintenance, move stuff around and such, all these bad asses bunched together in the same corner. They saw my arm as a common threat and got along together.
    Do ya think we could be as smart as a fuckin’ fish

    Respects
    Doc

  11. PHAQN A Says:

    AT THE END OF THE DAY, THE ONLY MARKS THAT MATTER ARE THE INDELIBLE ONES THE MONGOLS HAVE EMBLAZONED IN THE PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, FOREVER. WHAT CLUB COULD ASK FOR MORE? THEY HAVE SUCCESSFULLY CREATED A VIRTUAL BRANDING THAT NO ONE ELSE CAN COME CLOSE TO; NO OUTLAW CLUB, NO CORPORATION. THEIR PLIGHT HAS BROUGHT INTO LIVING COLOR THE THEME OF THEIR EXISTENCE IN THIS LIFE, AND THE NEXT; MONGOLS FOREVER, FOREVER MONGOLS. THROUGH THE LIFE OF THEIR EXISTENCE THESE MEN HAVE COME A LONG WAY FROM THE METAL CONTAINER CLUBHOUSE ON VALLEY BLVD., AND HAVE CONTINUALLY EVOLVED BEYOND A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH; IT IS PLAIN AND SIMPLE, THEY OWN CALIFORNIA, PATCH, OR NO PATCH. IT’S NOT SO MUCH WHAT YOU WEAR, IT’S MORE ABOUT THE LEGACY YOU CREATE.

  12. RVN69 Says:

    Bravo Sled Tramp,
    That just about sums everything up. Why do we keep giving the feds the ammunition to shoot us! Sled Tramp speaks the truth and we have to stop being to prideful to listen.

    Respect to all that have earned it.
    Si vis Pacem, Parabellum.

  13. sled tramp Says:

    Well once again the opportunity to add a rebuttal presents itself…
    So, here I goes…..
    Ahem….
    FUCK THE FEDS! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL MONGOLS! AND FREE ALL MONGOLS NOW!
    Stress relief,had to be done….
    I openly (obviously) support the right for anybody to wear whatever they want.Biker or Granny.I am now, and will always be, a staunch black and white supporter but this easily could be any club. We all know this,and again I ask, please try to put the bullshit between clubs out on the road and in the bars aside unless there’s no other option.We’re in this together.This ain’t a big group hug request but the power of the COC’s,lobbying WA state against profiling…is evident this can be done.Business areas and territories, patch wars and shooting each other and all the bullshit,you take a couple guys,remove their cuts and you get the same everything.The big clubs have the bucks to fight,the smaller ones without support are gonna die and then we get to play dominoes.Your egos are going to look pretty damn stupid without that cut you’re not going to be wearing.If the survival of your club might depend on a little working together,a little mutual cooperation, then why sacrifice yourself and your brothers on the alter of ego?
    I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to die stupid.
    SYLM

  14. Aerrin Says:

    Perhaps I read too much Animal Farm, 1984, and Fatherland when I was in school (or even out of it, really, I liked those books), but I am glad to see Big Brother might be losing one.

    Rebel, I enjoy your writing. You have a real gift for the English language and seeing a perspective that isn’t in the newspaper is nice. I stumbled across this blog today and I’m afraid I’ve done more reading of it at the work computer than I have work.

    Here’s hoping the Mongols win this one.
    ~Aerrin

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