After a forty-five month long legal assault, the Department of Justice finally convicted six members of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club in Detroit of racketeering. The convicted men are Aref “Steve” Nagi, Gary “Junior” Ball, Leonard “Dad” Moore, Joseph “Little Joe” Whiting, Anthony “Mad Anthony” Clark and Michael “Cocoa” Cicchetti. Cicchetti was at home when the verdict was read because he had suffered a stress induced heart attack during the trial. The other five men were taken into custody immediately.
This verdict marked the end of the first of multiple Highwaymen trials. About seventy more members of the club await their turn in the well. The Highwaymen have eight chapters in Michigan. The club also has chapters in Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Indiana.
Using RICO Against Motorcycle Clubs
The Department of Justice has frankly admitted that it is trying to annihilate the club around Detroit. “Our goal was to take a segment of this community in southeastern Michigan and try to clean it out,” Assistant United States Attorney Diane Marion told the Detroit News. “We aimed to remove people who terrorize others, and the jury’s verdict has done that.”
Another government goal was to find some motorcycle club, somewhere guilty of being a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO.) All six defendants were convicted of racketeering. A RICO conviction carries a mandatory ten year minimum sentence. “The jury determined that all of the defendants agreed a lot of these racketeering acts were occurring even if they didn’t directly participate in them,” Marion told the News. “They had knowledge of what was happening.”
The crimes the six men were convicted of knowing about included an armed robbery and murder in September 2003, conspiracies to commit murder in 2005 and 2007, an arson in 2004, drug possession and use and various crimes against members of the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club and the Liberty Riders Motorcycle Club in order to “(maintain) control over Highwaymen Motorcycle Club territory (turf) through acts of intimidation, threats and violence.”
The Highwaymen were also responsible for knowing that a former Garden City, Michigan Police Sergeant named David “Stifler” Tomlan had stolen “some motorcycles” from the Myrtle Beach “Motorcycle Week” in May, 2006 and brought them back to Michigan in a “U-Haul trailer.”
The strategy of using RICO to get motorcycle clubs is, according to a Bush Administration memo, “a powerful tool in the law enforcement arsenal (called) the Enterprise Theory of Investigation (ETI)…. Unlike traditional investigative theory, which relies on law enforcement’s ability to react to a previously committed crime, the ETI encourages a proactive attack on the structure of the criminal enterprise. Rather than viewing criminal acts as isolated crimes, the ETI attempts to show that individuals commit crimes in furtherance of the criminal enterprise itself. In other words, individuals commit criminal acts solely to benefit their criminal enterprise. By applying the ETI with favorable state and federal legislation, law enforcement can target and dismantle entire criminal enterprises in one criminal indictment.”
Using this brilliant legal strategy, all a prosecutor ever really has to do is decide which clubs, churches and charities are naughty and which ones are nice.
Long Road To A Verdict
The Highwaymen case began with an indictment against twenty-two members and associates of the club on September 5, 2006. The manner of the subsequent arrests, by cops dressed as video-game commandos and representing police “task forces” with post-modern names like DRANO and DRATT, was probably just right for an invasion of zombies. It was probably a little over the top for rounding up a band of bikers. It also epitomized the latest style in policing – which speaks like a robot and is married to histrionic television.
Nagi, the owner of two Detroit-area restaurants, a bar and a janitorial company, was arrested that day in 2005 and effectively renditioned. Nagi has already spent almost forty months in jail. Government lawyers long argued that he was too dangerous to be granted bail while they found something for which to try him. Last December, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he was actually entitled to reasonable bail.
Along the way the Highwaymen case has slimed an influential Detroit lawyer with political connections named Tim Attalla. Attala was defendant 62 in the Highwaymen superseding indictment unsealed a year ago.
The case boiled down to an argument over whether the Highwaymen were naughty or nice. In its opening statement, the government accused the Highwaymen of being, “the evilest bastards on the highway.”
The defense called them men who share a love of motorcycling and the open road.
The jury, after swearing that none of them were influenced by television histrionics, voted for the prosecutors. This trial took nine weeks. And, the case is still not over.