After a delay of 25 months, the Mongols racketeering trial originally scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on December 16, 2008 will finally get under way. Many of the details have evolved.
The judge who was to preside, Florence-Marie Cooper, died in January 2010. When the Glendale office of the ATF found out Cooper was on her death bed the agents there broke out the emergency champagne. The party is still going on.
The United States Attorney who brought the case, Thomas P. O’Brien, resigned after a small scandal concerning the misappropriation of government funds and sought fresh opportunities to make lots and lots and lots of money – money to bathe in, money to burn on wintry nights. O’Brien now defends only the richest and most deserving white collar criminals.
The name of the case has changed. None of the 79 defendants in the original litigation titled U.S. v. Cavazos et al. will ever actually be tried. Most federal defendants never see trial because federal judges believe, as they constantly remind these defendants from the bench, “in the plea bargaining process.” The lone defendant in the new case, U.S. v. Christopher Ablett, will be tried in their place and for their alleged crimes. He will stand trial in the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg starting Monday.
No Nancy Grace
Ablett is not the Scopes Monkey Trial. For people who have never heard of Scopes, Ablett is not even Casey Anthony. So no Nancy Grace. So how important can Ablett really be?
The attorneys are not exactly William Jennings Bryan or Clarence Darrow – which is worth remarking because if he were alive today Bryan would probably be running the Tea Party. The government attorneys, William Frentzen and Kathryn R. Haun are much more postmodern than even Mitt Romney. They are a new breed of prosecutors, bred in laboratories in big glass tubes in a special solution that deactivates their shame genes.
H. L. Mencken won’t be covering this trial – whoever he was. Hardly anyone will cover this trial: Maybe a fellow named Henry K. Lee who works for the San Francisco Chronicle will score exclusive interviews with the most heroic prosecution witnesses. Lee is also a likely candidate to write the definitive book. Anyone who has seen Lee’s recent work on the Angels and the Vagos knows how authoritative and informed he can be. So the cops and the prosecutors like him already.
Ablett is important despite all this because at its core it is about whether mostly anonymous government bureaucrats can just lock up a man and throw away the key. The most damning “evidence” against Ablett is that “everybody knows” his friends are gangsters. And, if you agree with this circular reasoning, you may also have already won a bright future in true crime publishing with a side gig at a big city daily.
In theory, in most criminal trials a defendant must only prove that a reasonable doubt exists about whether or not he is guilty. The prosecutors in this case have artfully arranged the charges against Christopher Bryan “Stoney” Ablett in such a way that he must also prove that the Mongols Motorcycle Club is not a racketeering enterprise that seeks to glorify itself by engaging in an ongoing feud with another racketeering enterprise called the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
The case against John Scopes was founded on the common sense assumption that man could not possibly be descended from monkeys. The Ablett trial is based on the equally prevalent and common sense assumption that the Mongols and the Hells Angels are the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story – only not “so pretty, oh so pretty, and witty and bright.” Ablett is a postmodern revision of that classic American musical. If West Side Story were reproduced today it could no longer be a love story. Everything after the intermission would have to dramatize the RICO case.
Ablett is important because it illustrates how much the collective American intelligence has dimmed, narrowed and shattered since Scopes. The case also illuminates the cancerous connections between the emerging American police state, mass media in a post-literate society and “industries” like “corrections” in our “service-based economy.”
These cancerous tentacles sprawl everywhere so Ablett is bigger than the story any of the newspapers, networks or magazines can conveniently understand it to be. You can only say so much in 20 column inches. On television, 90 seconds is a complete account and “in-depth” is 12 minutes. Virtually everyone who covers this trial, if anyone actually does bother to cover it, will do their best to bite size the difficult issues it presents.
Neither the Mongols nor the Hells Angels wants to hear it but the case has two victims.
Christopher Ablett has just spent his fourth Christmas behind bars. He is locked up because he is a member of the Modesto chapter of what everyone calls the “Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang” and he probably killed the President of the San Francisco charter of what everybody calls the “Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang.” Sounds thrilling already, doesn’t it? The homicide occurred in the course of a street fight on September 2, 2008.
The dead man was named Mark “Papa” Guardado. He was, by all accounts, the very best of friends and a distressing enemy. It doesn’t really now matter who Guardado was because the case is only incidentally about him. The defense will probably portray Guardado in the least flattering way. None of the prosecutors gives a damn about him. They have been piling their folders and papers on his corpse for two years. The same people who are trying to destroy Ablett were also trying to destroy Guardado. Getting Ablett too would be what people who have been bred in laboratories call “a win-win!”
In a frigidly real sense, the case was already tried, in an hour minus commercials, on April 30, 2009. That was the hour the History Channel (an international broadcasting business owned by A&E Television Networks which is in turn owned by Rogers Media, the Disney-ABC Television Group and NBC Universal) ran episode 12 of Season Four of a “reality television” series titled Gangland. The episode was called “Biker Wars Two.” It was made with the cooperation of numerous public and quasi-public officials including executives in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Allegations made in the episode could have come from only two sources, the ATF or the San Francisco Police Department. By May Day 2009 “Biker Wars Two” had aired in Serbia and Thailand.
Most Brutal Outlaw Biker Gangs
Three seconds into the episode, the voice of God proclaims, “San Francisco is the latest front in a long running battle between two of the most brutal outlaw biker gangs in the world.”
Ten seconds later a former FBI Agent named Tim McKinley states, “The willingness of each gang, the Hells Angels and the Mongols, to use violence for control is one of the things that characterizes those gangs as criminal street gangs.”
“There is only one goal in this war,” God says.
Then a loathsome snitch named Anthony Tait completes God’s thought. “Kill each other. However often they can get the chance. Doesn’t matter where it is. Doesn’t matter if it’s at Disneyland in the middle of summer with school out and 50 or 60 busloads of kids there.”
“September 2, 2008,” God continues. “The Dirty Thieves Bar in San Francisco’s Mission District. An unknown Mongol entered the bar wearing his colors. He seemed to be looking for trouble.”
The episode features a postmodern journalist, a San Francisco Examiner reporter named Tamara Barak Aparton. Aparton look like the sort of stupid and eager to please woman one prays to see sitting alone down at the other end of the bar at closing time. She elaborates on the Mongol who “seemed to be looking for trouble.” “I don’t know if he was in a bar that night to kind of test the waters of expanding the Mongols territory in San Francisco,” she says, “or if he, uh, was just there for a drink.”
“10:30 p.m.,” God continues. “A group of Hells Angels arrived to take care of business.”
Tait explains what God means by that. “Taking care of business, it could be anything from killing somebody and burying them or, you know, killing somebody and dumping their body.”
“There was some sort of conflict between him and Mark Guardado and they went out into the street,” Aparton reports without reservation or qualifiers. “They had a little bit of a wrestling match.”
God advances the plot. “The Mongol stabbed Guardado four times. Then pulled out a gun.”
“Witnesses said that they saw the fight,” Aparton says. She doesn’t identify the witnesses. “They saw them kind of grapple.”
“Suddenly, shots rang out,” God recalls. “Mark Guardado was hit in the head and chest. He fell face down in the street. Witnesses were stunned as the Mongol fled the scene of the crime on his motorcycle.”
“The fact that he rode off on a motorcycle definitely raised some suspicions,” Aparton concludes, “uh, that there might be a biker war brewing.”
The episode also features a “Gang Expert with Western States Information Network” named Jorge Gil-Blanco. He testifies that “The Mongols and the Hells Angels hate each other so much that their total focus is on doing damage to each other whenever and wherever they can. The collateral damage is of no consequence to them.”
Ablett has seen the episode. He detests it. He describes it as inaccurate.
An Alternative Account
To a certain, old fashioned sort of mind, a mind like Mencken’s or Darrow’s, what actually happened that night might be much more interesting, ironic and fatefully tragic than anything a postmodern publisher or a television network would now buy. The lives of Chris Ablett and Mark Guardado only intersected after a chain of improbabilities and coincidences. And, the evening only ended as it did because before time began God – the mostly silent God, not the one who does cheesy voiceovers – marked in his great book of doom that the two men would fight and that one of them would die and the other would live. One of God’s agents in this fateful event was the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.
Neither man anticipated this double tragedy. It was a Hall and Oates night. Ablett “was chasing women,” someone who did not appear in the Gangland episode but who seems informed anyway begins the tale. Club patches are aphrodisiacs. They don’t have that effect on all women and they don’t work for all men but available women are one of the main reasons why some fraction of motorcycle outlaws puts up with being a prospect.
Ablett, a married man, a father and approaching middle age, may not have been terribly serious about it. He may simply have wondered whether he still had it or not. He was with two women that night. One was a redhead and the other was her Asian friend. He had gone to high school with the redhead. He met her at the Asian woman’s apartment and when they all went out he left his Mongols cut there.
I Know A Bar
The redhead suggested they go to a dive bar she thought might be fun. It was called the Dirty Thieves. It sits at the corner of 24th Street and Treat Avenue. Ablett did not know the neighborhood and he had never heard of the place. If it was an “Angels bar” he had no idea. Like every other man in the history of the world he simply followed the two women where they wanted him to go. They reached out their hands and led him. They led him in a pickup truck while he followed on his motorcycle. He parked his bike a block away from the Dirty Thieves. Then he followed them inside and the three of them smiled some more.Sarah Smiles like Sarah doesn’t care. She lives in a world so unaware Does she know that my destiny lies with her?
He took off his jacket. Underneath he wore a tee shirt with two rockers that said “Mongols” and “Virginia” on the back. The trio played pool and nursed their drinks. He was, one of the women later told the FBI, “Nice. Polite.” She “felt comfortable around him.” Of course she did. “At no point during the day did their conversation involve the topics of motorcycle clubs or rival gangs.” Of course it didn’t. Women like patches. They don’t know anything about biker politics. The night had nothing to do with biker politics.
This was in San Francisco where one may no longer smoke in bars and Ablett smoked. This was also in a neighborhood Ablett did not know so he worried about his motorcycle. He didn’t bother to put on his jacket when he went outside to smoke and check the bike. Eventually a man lingering there noticed the word “Mongols.”
The Helpful Stranger
The man was George Jimenez. Until he died of cancer he was a motorcycle mechanic and he was a friend of the Frisco Angels. He may also have been an ATF source of information although any proof of that died with him. The two men spoke.
Jimenez loitered outside the bar. Then he called another friend of the Angels. That friend may testify at the trial. That second friend later told the FBI that he had called Guardado and told him “there are Mongols down on Treat.” He may have called back Jimenez and told him to keep an eye on the Mongol.
About the time Jimenez made his phone call, about 10:10 p.m., about 20 minutes before Mark Guardado died, Ablett and the two women left the bar. Ablett might have thought that all those good manners were finally about to pay off. He had his black leather jacket back on. Close up, he was still recognizably a Mongol by the tattoo under his right ear. He warmed up his bike while the women went to fetch their truck – and probably gossip about him behind his back. When they rolled past, about the time word was reaching Guardado that there were “Mongols down on Treat,” Ablett took off and followed the two women again.
Tip Over Sensor
So Guardado almost lived. There was almost no fight. There was almost no federal case. Ablett’s bad luck was Guardado’s bad luck. The truck started driving east on 24th Street with Ablett practically sniffing the rear bumper. Within a block the pickup truck suddenly braked. Ablett was still close behind. He had been drinking. He braked hard to avoid hitting the truck and when he did, before he got his feet down, he dropped the bike. It was the kind of boneheaded move that happens to every motorcyclist sometime. The bike was not substantially damaged. Ablett was not hurt, only embarrassed.
And immediately George Jimenez, the motorcycle mechanic and friend of the Angels, rushed over to help. The two men got the heavy bike upright. Ablett was riding a 2005 FLHTI, an Electra Glide Standard. The bike did not have a carburetor. The bike had an Electronic Fuel Injection. An EFI is basically a small computer that allows a motorcycle engine gagged by pollution controls and other government mandated features to still start and run.
Ablett could not restart his bike and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Jimenez was a bike mechanic so he knew what had happened. EFI Harleys include a pressurized fuel system that is potentially dangerous during some routine repairs (like disconnecting a fuel line) and following collisions. So one of the features of fuel injected Harleys is a small black box called a BAS or “Bank Angle Sensor.” After any of these bikes is tipped over at an angle greater than 45 degrees the fuel shuts off and does not automatically come back on when the bike returns to vertical. On Ablett’s bike, the tip over sensor plugged into the headlight wiring harness.
Jimenez knew the simple procedure to reset the BAS. Ablett had never heard of a BAS. Jimenez, who knew Guardado was coming, told Ablett about the sensor. He also probably lied that it would automatically reset after a few minutes. Then, Jimenez walked back toward the bar.
Jimenez told one of the cops who responded to the scene after the shooting a slightly different version of these events.
“When Jimenez was standing in front of the bar he saw the suspect walking to his motorcycle that was parked at 24th and Lucky. The motorcycle was a black Harley with a large glass windshield and black, leather saddlebags on both sides. He saw that the suspect was wearing a black, leather jacket or vest covering his shirt. Jimenez said the suspect began driving his motorcycle east on 24th Street following a pickup truck with two females inside. The suspect then dropped/crashed his bike on the corner of 24th and Treat. Jimenez ran over to help him pick his bike up. Once the motorcycle was up, the suspect attempted to start the bike but the engine would not start. The suspect then began pushing the motorcycle south on Treat. Jimenez then went inside the bar and wrote down the license plate number (CA 17C9216) on a napkin.”
As Jimenez was writing down Ablett’s license plate number, for reasons that are unclear, Ablett pushed his big bike up onto the sidewalk. His speedometer would have said “tilt” and he would have turned off his ignition. All he had to do to reset the BAS was turn the ignition off then on again. So he was halfway there but he didn’t know that. Instead he waited.
The women parked their truck next to him and the smiles and winks continued for at least another 10 minutes. The redhead got out of the truck. She and Ablett had a conversation a witness described as “flirtatious.” The witness said it looked like they had been “going to barbecues for years.” The redhead climbed onto Ablett’s bike. The witness who described this to police went inside, annoyed that the three had chosen to have a conversation in front of his house. Five minutes later, he said, he heard two loud bangs followed by another bang that sounded “somehow different.”
Sometime after that witness went inside and before the three bangs, at about 10:28 p.m., Mark Guardado and four other men arrived. Ablett has always maintained that there were five men. Guardado’s entourage may have been comprised of prospects for a club called the Bay Riders which emerged in San Francisco about a month later. The Bay Riders are a three piece patch club that maintains cordial relations with the Hells Angels and both of Guardado’s sons, Mark Jr. and Dominic, have publically identified themselves as founding members of the Bay Riders.
Guardado intended to beat up Ablett but he did not intend to gang up on him with his friends. He wanted to kick his ass fair and square. The five men arrived in a car or a truck and three of them probably remained in that vehicle. Guardado was a thick, genuinely tough man who wore a Dequiallo tattoo. He was one of seven Hells Angels arrested for allegedly assaulting police during a fight in Laconia, New Hampshire in 1998. He was convicted and that cost him a year of his life.
Guardado confronted Ablett and the next seconds followed the timeless, brutal, inevitable logic of West Side Story – the logic of South Boston, South Philly, South Central and Tombstone. In a heartbeat the two men were nose to nose like Mayweather and Ortiz. Nobody backing down. You can’t back down. The conversation was minimal. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.
Eyewitness accounts of the fight vary in numerous important details like who was standing and who was on the ground, who had a gun and where it came from, and who shot at who. The different versions are not all merely honest accounts of the same thing seen through different pairs of eyes. Somebody was lying.
Accounts of the fight spread as rumors and are polished with the logic of stories. One rumor argues that Guardado was shot in the back of the head. That is absolutely possible. The government has so completely hidden evidence in the case for so long that almost anything anyone already believes about this fight can be disproven. Justice delayed is not only justice denied. Justice delayed obliterates the useful concepts of true and false. Mongols and Hells Angels will probably hate each other for another thirty years now because of Ablett and Guardado.
In his statement, “Jimenez heard arguing and saw the suspect arguing with the victim approximately 50 yards south on 24th Street. When he turned his back to the suspect he heard two loud gunshots. He looked back toward them and saw two bright flashes of light. The suspect then got on his motorcycle and was able to start it and then he fled south on Treat towards 25th Street. Jimenez then fled the area. He never saw the gun but believes he (the suspect) was holding it in his right hand. Jimenez said that he would be able to identify the suspect if he saw him again. He told me he has never seen the suspect before but has seen the victim a few times at the Dirty Thieves bar.”
The redhead stated that she was in the truck when “she looked back toward (Ablett and) saw an unknown male in his face.” The two men “were very close to each other and were displaying aggressive postures.” They began fighting within seconds. She got out of her truck and walked toward the fight. “Both men were on the ground and the unknown male was on top of (Ablett)…. Just then, another unknown male approached her and the fighting men” and yelled “get the fuck out of here.” According to police it “was her impression that the second unknown male was not just an unrelated bystander.” He approached “with a purpose.” As she was getting back in her truck she heard multiple gunshots.
The Asian woman said she “looked back toward Ablett and saw that an unknown male was talking to” Ablett. The two men were face to face, speaking quietly and “started fighting.” She saw Ablett make “overhand stabbing motions.” Another unknown male approached from the direction of 24th Street and told her friend to “get the hell out of here.” Ablett turned his attention toward the second unknown male as (Guardado) stumbled back into the street saying ‘he keeps stabbing me.’” She heard gunshots and turned to see Ablett firing a gun and she thought he was shooting “toward the second unidentified male.”
In this case the line between manslaughter and self-defense thickens, fades and blurs. Someone stabbed Guardado four times. In jailhouse conversations Ablett has stated he never stabbed anybody. Two witnesses, including George Jimenez told police that Ablett pulled a gun from inside his jacket and held it in his right hand. Ablett has said Guardado pulled a gun on him. The gun has never been recovered. Guardado’s hands were bagged at the crime scene but they were never tested for gunshot residue. Or, if they were, the test results have disappeared. It is even possible that neither Guardado nor Ablett pulled the gun. Three men were seen fleeing the scene in a pickup truck. One entry in the police phone logs states that a witness “Heard 4 – 5 shots fired. Heard a man screaming. Thinks he must have been shot in the leg. Possibly limping away. No suspect description.”
Another witness, who may or may not be credible, says that after Ablett escaped the scene someone approached Guardado and spoke to the motionless body.
After this tragedy Mark Papa Guardado was survived by five orphans.
Ablett turned himself in the next month in Oklahoma. He faced state charges until July 2009. Then the case went federal. A superseding indictment filed September 6, 2011 charges Ablett with “murder in aid of racketeering;” “assault with a deadly weapon in aid of racketeering;” “use/possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in murder;” and “use/possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.” If convicted of the charges Ablett will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The federal charges make moot the issue of whether Ablett acted maliciously or in self defense. What Ablett must prove in this case is that the Mongols Motorcycle Club is not a racketeering enterprise. A person with knowledge of the case calls it the “tail wagging the dog.”
Ablett is the Department of Justice’s opportunity to finally try and win the Cavazos case. Hundreds of bits of information collected during Operation Black Rain – the sordid, undercover investigation that preceded the Cavazos case – have been or will be entered as evidence against Ablett.
Ablett actually never had anything to do with any of the racketeering allegations that will be raised at “his” trial. In the tens of thousands of pages and thousands of hours of electronic surveillance collected in Operation Black Rain, Christopher Stoney Ablett is mentioned exactly once, in Report of Investigation 605 written, allegedly, by Special Agent Darrin Kozlowski on July 7, 2008.
The ROI states that “on June 22, 2008 ATF UC Agents Darrin Kozlowski, Paul D’Angelo and Erin Anderson attended a party being held at the residence of Rios in West Covina, CA.”
“During the party SA Kozlowski observed the following members smoking marijuana in the back yard area: Little P.K. – Modesto Chapter, Buckshot – Modesto Chapter, Stoney – Modesto Chapter.”
The specific charges that make Ablett guilty of racketeering unless he can disprove them are that:
“…the Mongols biker gang was a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in among other things, murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to traffic in narcotics, narcotics trafficking, robbery, extortion, money laundering and witness intimidation.”
“The Mongols gang is a nationwide organization that has made efforts to expand internationally. The gang is believed to have 500 to 600 members. The Mongols organization is comprised of approximately 68 identified chapters. The chapters are located in different geographical regions throughout California as well as Oklahoma, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, New York, Utah, Washington, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Mexico and Canada”
“The Mongols gang, including its leadership, and its associates constituted an enterprise….”
“At all times relevant to this indictment, the members and associates of the Mongols gang included the defendant Christopher Bryan Ablett together with others known and unknown.”
“The purposes of the Mongols criminal enterprise, including its members and associates include, but are not limited to…maintaining the control and authority of the Mongols over the territory claimed by the Mongols and expanding that territory; preserving, protecting and expanding the power of the Mongols through the use of intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assault and murder; promoting and enhancing the authority of the Mongols members and associates.”
“The means and methods by which the defendant and his co-racketeers conduct and participate in the conduct of the affairs of the Mongols include but are not limited to the following: Members of the Mongols commit, attempt and threaten to commit acts of violence including murder to protect and expand the enterprise’s criminal operation… promote a climate of fear…use the enterprise to murder, attempt to murder, assault and threaten those who pose a threat to the enterprise…members and associates traveled in interstate and foreign commerce to conduct the affairs of the enterprise….”
“On or about September 2, 2008…as consideration for the receipt of and as consideration for a promise and agreement to pay anything of a pecuniary value from the Mongols and for the purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing his position in the Mongols…the defendant Christopher Bryan Ablett unlawfully and knowingly did murder Mark Guardado….”
The government intends to substantiate its argument that the Mongols Motorcycle Club is the Neapolitan Camorra, the Armenian Mafia and Red China all rolled into one with somewhere between 100 and 200 “declarations” recorded by undercover ATF agents Gregory “Russo” Giaoni, Paul “Painter” D’Angelo and Darrin “Dirty Dan” Kozlowski while they were brothers in good standing of the Mongols Cypress Park Chapter. Giaoni, D’Angelo and Kozlowski will all testify during the trial and will no doubt be lauded for their “bravery” by prosecutors and their pet poodles in the press.
John Ciccone, who the Las Vegas Review-Journal has described as a “legendary outlaw bike gang case supervisor,” will also testify at the Ablett trial. Ciccone has testified so many times against both Mongols and Hells Angels that his testimony has practically become legal boiler plate. He is the likely author of the racketeering charges quoted above.
At some point while he is on the stand he will say:
“The Mongols are primarily a Southern California street gang. A lot of the members were former street gang members that have elevated up through street gangs into a motorcycle gang and ninety-five percent of their membership is out of Los Angeles. There is approximately thirty-nine chapters in the city of Los Angeles in and of itself and about ninety-five percent of them are Hispanic, Hispanic gang members.”
“The Mongols have a national hierarchy. They have a national president, a national vice president, a national sergeant at arms, a national secretary/treasurer, and those are four people that are voted on and they basically call all the shots for the entire organization.”
“Basically within the Hells Angels and the Mongols, that’s what it’s all about for those guys is their patches. And they’ve gone to war over it before in the early seventies and early eighties and members have died as a result of that war over these patches. So it’s pretty dear to them and that’s their whole focus and point of being in these organizations.”
At some other point in Ciccone’s testimony, after he has crooned the jury half asleep, he will make the sort of naked accusations that form the basis of every biker club case. He will begin to throw around the word “murder.”
Q Do the Mongols have a particular terminology or code of conduct with regard to the members?
A The Mongols operate in similar fashion as the Hells Angels. Once you become a full patch you’re basically at the beck and call of the club and you’re to back the club at any cost. If that means murdering someone, that’s what you’re expected to do. That’s what you’re expected to do. You’re expected to assist someone, participate in assisting a member in whatever problem that member has, you’re expected to step up and do that.
Q Are the Mongols then in your expert opinion a combination of persons that are organized formerly or informally so constructed that that organization will continue its operation even if individual members enter or leave that group?
Q They have the common name or identifying symbol of the Mongols?
A Yes, it’s in their patch.
Q And they have particular conduct, status and customs that are indicative of their organization that you described to us?
Q And do they have as one of their common activities as a group engaging in criminal activities punishable as a felony?
Q Tell us about that.
A They’re involved in all the same typical crimes that the Hells Angels are involved in. They’re involved in narcotics trafficking, they’re involved in trafficking of firearms, they’re involved in murders, assaults, intimidation, extortion, thefts of stolen motorcycles.
Q And in those felony convictions when you say we, who are you referring to?
Q (Is) there a gang or organizational component to those (previous) convictions (of Mongols members?)
A In some of those convictions the gang allegation or enhancement was charged to those Mongols gang members
Q And so the felony, felonious conduct you’ve been talking about was conduct that was conducted for or on behalf or with the intention of promoting the organization of the Mongols and not just some person acting on their own?
Q And that would be your opinion as an expert being knowledgeable of the facts as well?
The reporters who cover this trial, if any reporters do cover it, will report Ciccone’s testimony as unquestionably true.
In the Ablett case, Ciccone will also testify about at least two violent incidents involving the Mongols and the Hells Angels. Ablett did not participate in either incident but he will be held guilty of them by his association with the Mongols.
The first of those incidents will be the “Laughlin riot,” the violent and often televised fight between Mongols and Hells Angels in a bar called Rosa’s Cantina inside Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, Nevada in April 2002. It is plausible that Ciccone helped instigate the incident. It is indisputable that Ciccone saw the violence coming and did nothing to prevent it. He was at Harrah’s when the fight occurred. It is possible that he was in the video surveillance room at Harrah’s watching the tensions between Mongols and Hells Angels escalate for an hour before the posturing became actual violence. He has said that he was standing outside the casino’s front doors when the fight occurred.
The prosecution has already stated: “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.”
“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 second incident about which Ciccone will testify is a shooting at the Sparks of Love Toy Run in Norco, California on December 4, 2005. Three people, including a Norco firefighter named Dain Fish were wounded in the shooting outside a restaurant named Maverick Steak House. The alleged combatants were Hells Angels and Mongols.
Six Mongols, Alex Lozano, president of the San Bernardino chapter, Manuel Armandarez, Rafael Lozano, Ricardo Gutierrez, Andres Rodriguez and Mario Angulo were all accused with attempted murder in the Cavazos indictment. That indictment also alleges that the next week, “On December 11, 2005, defendant Cavazos addressed Mongols members at a national run conducted in Mexico and congratulated members who had participated in the shooting of rival Hells Angels gang members at the Toys for Tots event in Norco, California on December 5, 2005, and Cavazos also discussed plans to reward those members for taking violent action on behalf of the Mongols.”
Ciccone, Kozlowski, D’Angelo and Giaoni will also testify that a discussion by some Mongols Club officers to help Ablett pay for a lawyer is a racketeering act.
Ciccone has already testified: “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.”
The prosecution has already argued that the Mongols Motorcycle Club never helped Ablett with any of his legal expenses 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….”
In fact, the Mongols Motorcycle Club did not “cover the expenses of defense counsel for” any of the “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.” Which is one of the reasons why so many of those defendants received ineffective counsel.
The government has also already argued that Ablett “has shown himself to be contemptuous of the judicial process…through his membership with the Mongols… who have a demonstrated disregard for law enforcement and the judicial process.” It is an astoundingly arrogant and specious argument for Ablett’s guilt.
It is the modern equivalent of the water trial of a witch. A suspected witch would be bound and thrown into a pond. If she drowned she was innocent. If she somehow survived her survival proved she was a minion of Satan.
Examples Of Criminal Intent
The criminality inherent in the Mongols will be evidenced by a copy of the “Mongols MC Five Commandments.” Those state:
“A Mongols never lies to another Mongol.”
“A Mongol never steals from another Mongol.”
“A Mongol never messes around with another Mongol’s Old Lady.”
“A Mongol never causes another Mongol to get arrested in any way, shape or form.”
“A Mongol never uses his patch for personal gain.”
Really. According to the prosecution, in document 192 filed December 7, 2011, the Mongols “disregard for law enforcement and the judicial process” is reflected in those rules.
Other “evidence” the prosecutors will introduce to prove that the Mongols are a criminal conspiracy are written statements issued by the club and seized in searches of members homes. Those statements include:
“If you ever get arrested never make a statement of any kind. Don’t make the stupid mistake of trying to talk your way out of jail. All you’ll end up doing is telling on yourself or implicating Brothers or someone else. Always say you have nothing to say and you want to speak to an attorney.”
“If subpoenaed or questioned as a possible witness, never say anything adverse that would cause anyone to go to jail, even if it’s not a Brother.”
“If a local Law Enforcement Task Force wants to talk to you for any reason always take at least one other Brother with you. If you are wanted or questioned for possible criminal charges, take your lawyer and don’t tell them shit.”
“Remember, if you can save a member from doing a large amount of time by doing a small amount of time, then do it without hesitation. You may need someone to do it for you someday.”
The statement prosecutors will allow to linger in the air, the statement that will be reported because of its parenthetical, frankly droll racism, is the Mongols “protocol” that says:
“Never press charges on anyone. If you get in a street fight and a citizen calls the man, and you happen to be the victim (such as being rat packed by 10 niggers) you do not press charges. Never testify in court or a parole hearing as an adverse witness. You may testify as a friendly witness only.”
Ciccone is only one of two outlaw biker experts the prosecution will call to testify during the trial. The other authority is Jorge Gil-Blanco who also testified during the Gangland quasi-trial in 2009. Gil-Blanco hates all bikers so much that it is still up in the air whether he will do more damage to the prosecution or the defense. When he died, Guardado faced state assault charges and Gil-Blanco would have been one of the witnesses against him at a trial. Gil-Blanco testified against Guardado in a preliminary hearing.
Gil-Blanco’s resume features many brief paragraphs. He has worked for multiple police forces in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Dixon, Solano and San Jose. He may be a bad policeman or he may be so good that he is much in demand. He now works for the federally funded Western States Information Network as a full time outlaw biker authority and he supplements his income as a professional expert witness.
Gil-Blanco was one of the officers successfully sued by several Hells Angels after a series of punitive “searches” in January 1998 that included the execution of pets and the wrecking of houses. One of those Angels was a man named Steve Tausan. After Tausan was shot and killed last fall at the funeral of San Jose Hells Angel Jeffrey Pettigrew, Gil-Blanco was a credited source for a story by Sean Webby in the San Jose Mercury News about Tausan’s death. In that story Gil-Blanco was described as an “investigator who has specialized in outlaw motorcycle gangs since the 1990s.” Also in that article, the “investigator” stated that “the Hells Angels are heavily involved in the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs like methamphetamine.”
Gil-Blanco will teach a course two days after the Ablett case begins in Rancho Cordova, California. The course is titled “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.” He is a an easily accessible source for reporters covering biker cases. He has commented about the deadly fight between Hells Angels and Vagos in Sparks, Nevada last September. He appears to be the source for the often cited fabrication that the Vagos and Angels are engaged in a “war” that “started over Starbucks.”
Gil-Blanco is also the author of an article in Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine that advises other police about techniques they can use when offering duplicitous testimony in court. Among the highlights:
“The officer is ‘on stage’ and is expected to give vital and important information to the ‘audience.’”
“A trained officer will know to be prepared for anything the defense attorney is likely to ask as a means of undermining the officer’s contribution to the prosecutor’s goal of obtaining a conviction.”
“…prepared officers are able to make their points as if they were instructors in a classroom, making sure the students understand the testimony. Prepared officers are also aware of the importance of body language while testifying, which includes proper eye contact and posture. In addition, the use of technology in the testimony can help demonstrate, explain, and summarize information.”
Gil-Blanco was “on stage” to contribute to the ultimate goal of all trials, which is not justice but “obtaining a conviction,” last February in Lakeport, California when he testified against a member of the Misfits Motorcycle Club named Thomas Loyd Dudney. Dudney was accused of attempting to murder a man named Ronald Greiner in 2009. Gil-Blanco testified that Dudney committed the crime “for the benefit of the Misfits.” He stated that violent assaults were usually done to bolster a “gang’s” reputation. Under cross-examination he conceded that “not every crime committed by a gang member is a gang crime.”
The man who will attempt to convince a jury that Ablett acted in self defense is long time San Francisco defense attorney Richard B. Mazer. Mazer’s former clients include Ralph Hubert “Sonny” Barger.
Ablett’s guilt or innocence will be determined, as is the custom, by a panel of good citizens who are too stupid to get out of jury duty. Mazer will attempt to convince those citizens of the ferocity of the Frisco Angels and of Guardado in particular.
How complete a smear this will become remains to be seen. Mazer will probably cite Guardado’s assault charge, his short prison term, every assault of a Mongol or Mongols sympathizer he can find and several examples of Hells Angels slogans.
Guardado’s brother is a cop in San Francisco and it is not impossible to imagine that the San Francisco Police Department who initially investigated Guardado’s homicide will be dragged into the trial.
Oh No Not Him
The star witness for the defense will be either Chris Ablett, if he takes the stand, or Ruben “Doc” Cavazos. It is not a slam dunk that either man will testify in the case. Ablett is, by far, the more likely of the two to speak. Doc is the former Mongols President who was voted out bad from the club in August 2008 for instigating violence and stealing almost $200,000. Doc carries so much baggage that the prosecution would probably enjoy the opportunity to discredit him.
Q And did you sign this confession, Mr Cavazos?
Q Well, were you lying then or are you lying now?
However, if Mazer has the huevos to put him on the stand, Doc Cavazos might actually be able to tarnish some shiny careers. Right this moment, as they learn that there is this possibility, several federal employees are preparing for the trial by ordering extra pairs of brown pants.
The government has been hiding Cavazos for more than three years. And, none of the best reporters have ever wondered why. Not even Tamara Barak Aparton. Much of the Cavazos’ prosecution was based on the plausible notion that Doc was spilling his guts on everybody about everything in his club.
The official explanation for the disappearance of Doc is that if Doc were not buried like the Sutton Hoo hoard his life would be in danger from his many enemies in the Mongols, the Hells Angels, La Eme, the Galloping Goose and whoever else hates him. It is a long list of enemies. Many people do really, really hate Doc. But, the truth is that Doc has the confidence of a store front preacher and he seems not to be particularly afraid. Federal prosecutor Christopher Brunwin was able to coerce confessions out of dozens of Mongols with the threat of what Cavazos might reveal about them. Then, to keep the con game going all the Department of Justice had to do was keep Doc invisible and silent.
Even Cavazos’ sentencing hearing was held in a closet. Even Timothy McVeigh’s sentencing was public. Even William Jennings Bryan thought justice should be public. Even Nixon thought justice should be public. The idea of secret justice is new in America.
Cavazos is furious, genuinely or theatrically, about how he was used by the government. He is particularly incensed that the government used him and then still gave him a sentence of 14 years. He is even more incensed that at his top secret sentencing the Judge, Otis D. Wright, allowed John Ciccone and his homie – a Ramparts Crash veterano named Chris Cervantes – to sit in the mostly empty room and laugh out loud at the look on Doc’s face when he learned his fate. Now Doc wants his turn to laugh.
Doc seethes each day in the Disciplinary Administrative Segregation Pod at the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America gulag in California City, which is near a city called Mojave, which is surrounded by a desert called the Mojave, which doesn’t even begin to suggest how grim and secretive the place is. The fact that places like California City and that companies like the Corrections Corporation of America exist suggests how much American jurisprudence has de-evolved since Scopes.
Doc has asked to be transferred to the mainline but his request has been denied out of concerns for his “safety.” And, also out of fears that once unleashed upon the general population Doc might give interviews and start a union.
Of course, now that that cat is out of the bag the U.S. Marshall’s Service will probably have no choice but to transfer Doc to Guantanamo. You know, for his own protection. Or, considering that the impeccably liberal Barack Obama recently signed something called the National Defense Authorization Act into law despite his “serious reservations,” maybe next Doc will be sedated and awaken the next day in chains inside a concrete replica of the Qaaba in a desert in Tajikistan.
All of these elements in the Ablett case describe postmodern democracy, postmodern justice and postmodern policing. And, whatever happens during Chris Ablett’s trial will be reported to you by post-literate journalists. Clarence Darrow and H.L. Mencken will not be walking into the Phillip Burton Building next week. The Planet of the Apes got it right. It is no longer accurate to say that we evolved from monkeys because we are now becoming monkeys and federal prosecutors are leading the way.
The case against Christopher Ablett will include at least 45 declarations made by Doc Cavazos (like his alleged praise for the alleged toy run shooters) but the prosecution will not call him as a witness. The defense would slice and dice the Mongols memoirist as easily and quickly as the prosecution would. Instead, Doc’s “declarations” that the Mongols are in fact a racket will be channeled through world class psychics like D’Angelo, Giaoni and Kozlowski.
Interestingly, even the prosecutors understand that Black Rain undercover ATF Agent John Carr is so loathsome that even people who can’t get out of jury duty might catch on that there is another side to this whole biker gang thing other than the side argued so artfully and accurately on Gangland.
Nevertheless, it would be a hoot to hear Doc’s take on the court case that bore his name. Even his former club brother’s might enjoy Doc’s explanation of where all that missing Mongol’s money went. Hells Angels might want to hear his thoughts about them. Presumably, however vain, greedy or egotistic he is, no matter how much he is despised by his former club brothers, Doc still clings to a certain fading, masculine code. And part of that code, the part the prosecution will flaunt, is no matter what or who “only testify for the defense.”
The trial is scheduled to last about three weeks. The court has set aside 12 court days from January 23 until February 17 to hear the arguments of both sides. Some of this case might even make the papers.