The foul stink of the Pagans racketeering case, US v. Barbeito et al., lingers in West Virginia.
The case began in October 2009. The principal accusation against the defendants was that the Pagans Motorcycle Club held a lottery. Charges against many of the 55 defendants were dismissed. The lead defendant, former club President David Keith “Bart” Barbeito was sentenced to 30 months in prison in December 2010.
Two of the defendants, Elmer Luke Moore and Richard Timothy Weaver, still face racketeering charges. Both men reluctantly signed plea agreements in July 2010 despite maintaining their actual innocence. Key to the prosecution’s case was the legal fiction that both men were “employees” of the “Pagans racketeering enterprise” rather than members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club.
Then, as prosecutor Steven Loew put it, “Rather than fulfilling their obligations under the plea agreement, both Defendants maintained their innocence and affirmatively stated on the record that they did not intend to plead guilty as they had previously agreed to in their written plea agreements with the United States.”
The Confidential Informant
Much of the federal case against the Pagans was based on information provided by a confidential informant named James “Pagan Ronnie” Howerton.
In an interview with the Frederick County Maryland Daily News-Post, Howerton explained that he became a government informant because he was concerned about drug use within the club. “I was concerned about being part of it,” Howerton said, “so I went to the FBI and I told them ‘Charge me. Let’s get this over with.’”
“They told me, ‘We’re not going to charge you. Have a seat.’ They told me to stay in the club and report back to them about crimes and things that were going on.”
In late August 2011, Howerton filed a complaint of misconduct against Richard Timothy Weaver’s lawyer, Deirdre Purdy, with the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board. Among other things, Howerton complains that Purdy falsely accused him of being paid by the federal government, of creating crimes and stealing motorcycles. The accusations were reported in two, small West Virginia newspapers and Howerton claimed they ruined his good reputation and employability.
Lawyers Yes, Citizens No
The documents which support Purdy’s allegations about Howerton have been sealed by the court. Purdy requested that the protective order sealing the documents be lifted because: “1) there is a presumption that judicial proceedings are open to the public; 2) the Protective Order is no longer necessary for the protective purposes set forth in the original order; and 3) counsel needs protected documents to defend a judicial ethics complaint made by James R. Howerton (a/k/a Pagan Ronnie, FBI-CI, Sutar).”
On October 27, the judge in the case, Thomas E. Johnston, refused to lift the protective order but did allow the Lawyer Disciplinary Board to view the sealed documents.
The Cooperating Witness
One of the Pagans charged in the indictment was James Richard “Bones” Claypool II of French Creek, West Virginia.
Claypool was charged in the indictment with six criminal violations: Obstruction of Justice; violent crime in aid of racketeering; criminal conspiracy; working as a bodyguard for a violent felon; possessing a firearm after being convicted of domestic violence; and distribution of cocaine. If convicted, he faced up to 30 years in prison.
Claypool entered into a cooperation deal on December 2, 2009 in which the government agreed to drop all charges against him except for one count of obstruction of justice. In return, Claypool agreed to “be forthright and truthful with this office and other law enforcement agencies with regard to all inquiries made pursuant to this agreement, and will give signed, sworn statements and grand jury and trial testimony upon request of the United States. In complying with this provision, Mr. Claypool may have counsel present except when appearing before a grand jury. Mr. Claypool further agrees to be named in future indictments or informations as an unindicted co-conspirator or an unindicted aider and abettor where appropriate.”
Claypool was released from custody on September 14, 2010 and sentenced to time served three days later. He remains under court supervision.
Don’t Share Too Much In Jail
Earlier this week, Claypool was still holding up his end of his plea bargain. Wednesday he testified against an accused murderer named John Eugene Anderson in Parkersburg, West Virginia. According to Claypool, Anderson volunteered information to him about the murder of Willard Rex Wright while Claypool and Anderson were both in the Washington County (West Virginia) Jail.
“He asked me to talk to him,” Claypool told the jury about Anderson. “He told me he killed someone and he said he had it coming.”
“He asked about what would happen if something happened to witnesses,” Claypool said. “He asked me if I could do something and if he couldn’t pay if he could do me favors in jail or out of jail.”