Steven “Gorilla” Mondevergine, a South Philly guy, a former Philadelphia cop and probably the best known member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club was sentenced to three to ten years in prison by Common Pleas Judge Earl W. Trent on August 8.
Mondevergine pled guilty to aggravated assault and firearms offenses as part of a negotiated plea agreement. He had been accused of attempted murder.
Mondevergine, a former President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pagans, may be the second most famous outlaw biker, after Sonny Barger, in the history of outlaw bikers. And, the argument can be made that the stories about Mondevergine are at least as good as the stories about Barger.
One of those stories illuminates who Mondevergine is and how he got into his current predicament.
Among other things Mondevergine, is widely credited with achieving an accommodation favorable to the Pagans with several entrepreneurs of Italian descent who all had colorful nicknames. But before the accommodation was the drama.
In 1984, a particularly important entrepreneurs named Salvatore “Chuckie” Merlino intentionally rammed his car into a Pagan sitting on a motorcycle. The understanding was that Merlino could do what he wanted and no one dared stand in his way.
The next night, an unknown person or persons, fired 200 bullets into Merlino’s address of record. A Philadelphia police detective named Frank Friel later went on record to blame the shooting on the Pagans. “The incident went unavenged,” Friel said. “This brazen insult to the majesty of the Men of Honor was never punished. The Mafia bullies had been bullied by the bike-riding bullies and backed down.” Subsequently, associates of Chuckie Merlino contributed $5,000 to the injured biker to defray medical and bike repair costs.
Fifteen years later, Chuckie Merlino’s son, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, attended one of Gorilla Mondevergine’s occasional court appearances. Mondevergine was charged with disorderly conduct for getting into an argument with a Philadelphia Police lieutenant named William Walls. And, Merlino came to court with the Pagan that day to show his respect.
“I’m proud to be a Pagan and I’m proud to say Joey Merlino is one of my dearest friends,” Mondevergine told Jim Nolan of the Philadelphia Daily News. “The fact that he’s here for me today shows a lot of class . . .He’s a stand up guy.”
Merlino replied, “He’s my friend. My friend from the neighborhood. I came to support him.”
“I Am Proud”
Merlino wore a tan suit. Mondevergine wore a sleeveless tee shirt and a Pagans’ cut. When the judge in the case, Gwendolyn Conway, asked Mondevergine about the charge the Pagan looked at his accuser and said in open court, “Tell him to leave his gun and his badge at home. Pagans don’t hide behind the law. If he wasn’t a cop he wouldn’t look at me cross eyed.”
The prosecutor, a man named Seth Williams, objected to Mondevergine wearing his cut in court. “Your honor can infer that the defendant is thumbing his nose at this court,” Williams said. “He’s not above the law.”
“I don’t deny who I am,” Mondevergine replied. “I am proud of this shirt, and I am proud of this club. I’m not wearing this shirt to offend you.”
Mondevergine’s latest charge was for assaulting former Pagans’ Philadelphia Chapter President Timothy “Casual” Flood inside the Chapter clubhouse on January 30, 2008. Flood succeeded Mondevergine as Chapter President and was attempting to vote Mondevergine out bad.
The die hard Mondevergine replied by shooting Flood in the knee and stabbing him in the back. Flood initially told authorities he was the victim of a drive-by shooting but began cooperating with Federal authorities in 2009.
Flood later testified that was just “sitting on a couch” when Mondevergine assaulted him.
Mondevergine’s attorney, Joseph Santaguida, called the three to ten year sentence “appropriate.”
The prosecutor in this case, Deputy District Attorney Brian Grady, gloated that “Mr. Mondevergine will be under supervision until he’s just about 70.”
And so we are all encouraged to conclude that the citizens of Philadelphia are now safer. And, that the world is a safer, if less interesting, place.