The trumped-up charges against Vagos President Pastor Palafox have been dropped.
Palafox was one of 12 members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club arrested by 500 state, local and federal police officers in six Southern California counties on October 6. Police called the arrests “Operation Simple Green.”
The raids were precipitated by a violent brawl between Vagos and Hells Angels in Sparks, Nevada on September 23. One Hells Angel, Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, died in the brawl. Two Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were wounded during the incident. The next morning, Vago Shane Smith was shot while riding his motorcycle in Sparks.
The point of the raids, according to an informed source, was to “shake the tree” and also recover a .40 caliber automatic pistol used in the Sparks confrontation.
Operation Simple Green was an extravagant and expensive public relations stunt that followed a two-year-long, mostly electronic, surveillance of the Vagos by an alphabet soup task force comprising multiple state and federal police forces. The lead police force in the investigation was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After the raids, the little known California Department of Justice and California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris rushed to claim credit for the boondoggle.
In a press release the day of the raids, Harris announced, “outlaw motorcycle gangs, like the ones whose member we arrested today, regularly perpetrate serious, violent crimes. Today’s action will make Californians safer.”
Another politician, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos declared, “This outlaw biker gang (the Vagos Motorcycle Club) has been terrorizing our community for years and what happened today is another huge step in the war on gangs I declared in 2005…. This task force is a clear example of how a cooperative team approach can be effective in making our citizens safe.”
A California Department of Justice Special Agent named Andy Spillman told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s going to be a tremendous blow, because we’re targeting their (the Vagos) top leaders.”
The Times did not ask how much the raids cost.
Interest Of Justice
Palafox was charged with stealing a motorcycle, possessing a stolen motorcycle and “street terrorism.” In a court hearing this morning, San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Steve Sanchez said that he was dropping the charges “in the interest of justice” because there was never any probable cause to bring the charges in the first place.
Joseph Yanny, Palafox’s attorney, complemented Sanchez for doing the obvious. “Hat’s off,” Yanny said. Yanny also characterized Palafox as “a good, decent, hard-working man.”
Two of the dozen men arrested during Operation Simple Green have not yet been cleared. Scott Rivera and Caesar Rodriguez are both accused of vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, participating in a criminal street gang and failure to register as gang members. The first three charges are all felonies. Both men are free on bail and are next scheduled to appear in court February 14.