The outlines of the prosecution and the defense in the trial of Mongol Christopher Bryan “Stoney” Ablett are beginning to appear out of the legal fog.
Ablett is accused of murdering Hells Angel San Francisco charter President Mark “Papa” Guardado on September 2, 2008 on behalf of the “Mongols gang.” The trial is scheduled to begin January 23 in the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg.
In documents filed in the last month William Frentzen and Kathryn Haun, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who will prosecute the case against Ablett, have indicated at least some of the witnesses and some of the evidence they intend to introduce at trial. Ablett faces life in prison if he is convicted.
Among the evidence the prosecution still refuses to disclose are “the statements of alleged co-conspirators to the purported RICO enterprise identified as the Mongols Motorcycle Club. These statements are attributed to a number of Mongols, many of whom were later arrested and charged with being a member of a RICO conspiracy… members of the Mongols listed as declarants” include Ruben “Doc” Cavazos.”
The prosecution has given no indication that it will actually call on Cavazos to testify. Cavazos was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Judge Otis Wright in a secret hearing in September. ATF Special Agent John Ciccone and ATF Tactical Field Officer and Montebello Police Sergeant Chris Cervantes openly laughed at Cavazos during that sentencing.
Most of the declarations that will be entered into evidence that the Mongols Motorcycle Club is a criminal racket were made “in the course of executing plea agreements, cooperation agreements and the entry of pleas.” Some of those plea and cooperation agreements remain under seal and have not been available to Ablett’s attorneys, Richard B. Mazer and Michael N. Burt.
The prosecution also continues to withhold information about the weapon Ablett allegedly used to murder Guardado. Guardado’s autopsy report indicates that he died as a result of “multiple gunshot wounds.”
Ablett and Guardado allegedly fought outside a bar called Dirty Thieves at the corner of 24th Street and Treat Avenue in San Francisco. Witness statements about the murder are often contradictory. One witness said Guardado’s last words were “He keeps stabbing me!” Guardado was stabbed as well as shot.
The prosecution still refuses to disclose “the type of weapon Ablett used to commit his deadly assault.”
In a memorandum filed with the court on December 23, the prosecution articulated its intention to make the brawl between members of the Mongols and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs in Harrah’s in Laughlin, Nevada in April 2002 an issue in the Ablett case. The memo states:
“The incident at Laughlin is directly relevant because it provides context for the defendant’s motivation to commit murder in this case, i.e. that the victim was a Hells Angels member. The Laughlin incident is the single most important reason for the dangerous rivalry that exists between the two enterprises to this day. It provides background and context for the animosity that existed between the Mongols (the enterprise charged in the instant Indictment) and the Hells Angels.”
“…the defendant argues, the government’s position that Laughlin is a racketeering act wherein members of the Mongols conspired to murder and murdered members of the Hells Angels is somehow inconsistent with its earlier prosecution of Hells Angels members. What the defendant fails to appreciate is that the two positions are not mutually exclusive: Just as members of the Mongols conspired to commit various acts to include murder and attempted murder at Laughlin so too did members of the Hells Angels conspire to commit murder and attempted murder at Laughlin. Both groups had members who were armed and ready to fight at the Harrah’s casino. Nothing about the government’s earlier prosecution of the Hells Angels diminishes the fact that it also involved the Mongols. In fact, two Hells Angels members were murdered and one Mongols member was murdered at Laughlin. The violent melee went both directions, and the government should not be precluded from presenting Laughlin as a racketeering act simply because it previously prosecuted members of the Hells Angels for the events arising out of Laughlin.”
“What the government is seeking to prove with Laughlin that is entirely relevant to not one but two elements the government must prove is simply that: (1) there is a history of animosity between the two groups; (2) that history includes a violent melee that occurred at Laughlin that involved violence on the part of both groups; and (3) the event at Laughlin transformed what had previously been a dangerous rivalry into a full scale “war” between the two groups for which there had been no truce by September 2, 2008 when the defendant killed Mark Guardado. The government does not intend to prove up the Laughlin incident in a matter that suggests one party. Namely, the government must prove (1) that an enterprise existed and (2) that it engaged in racketeering activity. Laughlin is directly relevant to demonstrating both that the Mongols was an enterprise and that the enterprise was engaged in racketeering activity.”
“The government intends to prove this particular racketeering act through the testimony of two witnesses, a few minutes of video surveillance that show both the Hells Angels and Mongols engaged in a fight, and several photos….”
The government will also attempt to convince a jury that the Mongols is a racket because the club helps members with legal expenses in criminal cases. The prosecution characterizes this legal fund raising as one tactic used by an “unlawful motorcycle gang.”
The prosecution intends to tell the jury that “…members of the Mongols, at one point, discussed collecting funds for the defense of defendant Ablett and that they were considering covering defendant Ablett’s defense.”
On June 4, 2009 ATF Special Agent John Ciccone told the grand jury that indicted Ablett for racketeering: “If a Mongol is arrested and a crime that he committed was in furtherance of the gang; so, for example, he gets into a fight with a rival gang member or a Hells Angel, he was doing that because that’s the protocol of the gang and it was in furtherance of the gang. Then the Mongols would take up a collection through what they term a ‘defense fund.’ They would charge each member of each chapter a specific amount of money that would go to that individual’s defense fund to pay off lawyer fees, court costs, or whatever because the criminal act that he committed was in furtherance of the gang.”
Ablett’s legal expenses have never actually been reimbursed by the Mongols Motorcycle Club, the prosecution explains, because “they could not cover the expenses of defense counsel for all Mongols members after the Black Rain case was taken down and about 100 or more of them were all facing criminal charges at the same time, perhaps they wrote defendant Ablett off because he was facing a possible federal death penalty case….”
One of the ATF Agents who patched into the Mongols in order to entrap and subvert them, Special Agent Darrin Kozlowski, will testify at Ablett’s trial. Kozlowski will testify that he overheard Mongols discuss helping Ablett with his legal expenses.
Kozlowski will also testify that he saw three Modesto chapter Mongols including Ablett smoking marijuana at a party on June 22 2008. Kozlowski will also testify that at that party he arranged to buy heroin from Jorge “Solo” Viramontes for $1,500 an ounce. According to the pertinent Report of Investigation, ROI 605, Kozlowski did not record the conversation “due to the spontaneity of Viramontes approaching SA Kozlowski at the party” at which Ablett was preesent.
Kozlowski will testify that at the same party a “strict ‘Code 55’ was (put) in effect. That notice prohibited any Mongols members from wearing Mongols insignia due to an altercation with a rival gang…. Ablett’s presence with other Mongols at a time when a Code 55 is put out is of obvious relevance to this case – as SA Kozlowski can testify that, as a Mongols chapter Sergeant at Arms, his responsibility immediately on receiving a Code 55 was to notify all other members of his chapter. Therefore, the Sergeant at Arms of the Modesto chapter of the Mongols was responsible to notify all members of that chapter immediately on receiving the national Code 55.”
Kozlowski will also testify about purchases of cocaine and methamphetamine he made while investigating the Mongols.
Kozlowski may also testify to his official account of the aftermath of the murder of a Mongol Named Manuel “Hitman” Martin as stated in ROI 800 which was written, signed and dated about a month after the murder. In that report, Kozlowski states that he was told by a Mongol named Shawn “Monster” Buss that “the shooter who killed Martin” was a “Toonerville gang member.” According to Kozlowski, he learned that the motive for the murder may have been that “a member of 311 Bikerz checked a couple of unknown male individuals.”
The government’s most authoritative witness when it presents its case against Ablett will be ATF “gang expert” John Ciccone. Ciccone is expected to testify about the “Laughlin Riot” and the criminal nature of both the Mongols and the Hells Angels. Ciccone is the author of much of the language in Ablett’s indictment.
Before the grand jury that indicted Ablett, Ciccone testified to the criminal nature of the possible establishment of a legal defense fund for the accused man.
In that testimony a prosecutor asked Ciccone, “What happens if the a criminal act the individual was involved in was not in furtherance of the gang? Does that individual get a defense fund?”
And Ciccone replied, “ No. He would basically be on his own.”
Later in the same testimony, Ciccone was asked, “When you testified previously about defense funds being set up and you talked about defense funds in general with the Mongols organization, was such a defense fund set up for Christopher Ablett?”
“How do you know that?”
“Once he once he self-surrendered after being on the run for a few months, the topic was brought up at a members meeting that they were going to start providing a certain amount of defense funds for Chris Ablett’s defense.”
“And was it a members meeting … Where was this members meeting? Do you recall?”
“I don’t remember the exact location. It was a meeting in Los Angeles.”
“And was it a members meeting of a specific chapter or an ‘all members’ type meeting?”
“I think it was a sergeant at arms/presidents meeting, if I can recall correctly, which would mean just those two people that held those positions in their respective chapters would be in attendance….”
“One thing you discussed was the discussion among he Mongols about setting up a legal defense fund for Ablett. Do you know whether such a legal defense fund was actually established on his behalf?”
“That was all. Our case was still going on, and that was all being directed by the former national hierarchy that are now all in custody based off of our investigation, and I have not … Granted we don’t have our undercovers in play anymore, that kind of thing, I have not heard any information recently since our takedown that they’re still continuing to make payments towards his defense.”