Phillip Aguilar, founder of the Set Free Soldiers Motorcycle Ministry pled guilty last week to one misdemeanor count of being a prohibited person in possession of a bullet. In return for his guilty plea he had three felony counts – possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of brass knuckles and street terrorism – dismissed. Aguilar was sentenced to three years probation.
Aguilar (above) founded the Set Free Soldiers ministry in 1982. He has said that he experienced a religious conversion in prison while doing time for child abuse.
He became briefly famous, at least in Los Angeles, after he caught the attention of television news directors in the summer of 2008.
The Set Free Soldiers won headlines as a result of a brawl with members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in a bar called Blackie’s by the Sea in Newport Beach on July 27th, 2008.
According to the police version of the incident, Pastor Aguilar invited members of the Hells Angels in Orange County, California to share an adult beverage and an interlude of frank and open conversation about a disagreement that had developed between the two groups. According to court documents, Aguilar was claiming affiliation with the Angels in certain personal and business dealings. And the Hells Angels, who were protective of their brand, wanted him to stop.
The meeting was between four members or associates of the Hells Angels and Aguilar and four of his assistant pastors. After the conversation began, ten more assistant pastors entered Blackie’s and surrounded the Angels. A fight ensued that lasted less than one minute. Two Hells Angels were stabbed. One of them had his throat cut. And one Set Free Soldier was punched in the face with a billiards ball.
After the fight the four Hells Angels and a dozen Set Free Soldiers were arrested. A week later 150 Swat Team members and other police raided residences associated with the Seat Free Soldiers in Orange and Riverside Counties in Southern California.
The Long Legal Song And Dance
Since the raids, the case has proceeded deliberately.
That fight two years ago still hangs over the heads of two reported Angels. Drug and weapons charges against Brian David Heslington were thrown out after a detective was shown to have lied about the case. A judge ruled that Detective Christine O’Donnell’s testimony was “false and misleading” but a local prosecutor has threatened to refile the charges anyway. Meanwhile, John Phillip Lloyd remains charged with street terrorism and being a gang member in possession of a loaded weapon. His trial is scheduled to begin June 4th.
The legal problems of the Set Free Soldiers remain only partly resolved as well. In December 2008, Rodrigo Jose Requejo pled guilt to aggravated assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years probation. About a year ago, Jose Enrique Quinones pled guilty to attempted murder and street terrorism and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Glenn Arthur Schoemen pled guilty last September to street terrorism and was sentenced to four months in jail and three years probation.
Phillip Aguilar’s son, Matthew John Aguilar, has pled guilty to possession of a dangerous weapon and will be sentenced next November. And, Pastor Aguilar’s son-in-law, Michael Alan Timanus still awaits a preliminary hearing on charges of street terrorism and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.