Three suburban Los Angeles newspapers ran a story Sunday morning about accusations of official corruption in Operation Black Rain. Black Rain was the ATF infiltration of the Mongols Motorcycle Club that ended abruptly on October 9, 2008.
The papers are the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News and Whittier Daily News. They are collectively called the Pasadena Newspaper Group and they have a combined Sunday circulation of 319,000. The 1150 word feature article (linked here) publicizes complaints by former Mongol Alvaro “Al The Suit” Cavazos, Jr. that those Mongols who were indicted for racketeering as a result of Operation Black Rain “were set up by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a Montebello cop who allegedly falsified a police report.”
The feature, by Tribune Metro Editor Frank Girardot, quotes both Al Cavazos and former Mongols President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos.
Al Cavazos has long maintained that the investigation of a shooting between members of the Gage Maravilla street clique and Mongols at a topless bar called Nicola’s on April 8, 2007 epitomized the corruption of the ATF investigators. The Aging Rebel published a brief account of that shooting (linked here) last December 19.
During that incident, according to witnesses, ATF Special Agent John Ciccone and ATF Tactical Field Officer Chris Cervantes cynically stood and watched as a gunfight erupted. Cervantes is a former Los Angeles Police gang investigator and a current Montebello, California cop. That Los Angeles gang unit, called Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums or CRASH, was notoriously corrupt.
The Nicola’s shooting was mentioned four times in the Mongol’s 2008 indictment. Specifically, the indictment and ATF investigative reports accuse the Mongols Motorcycle Club as an organization of harboring and rewarding patch holders who were involved in the incident.
And, regardless of whether Ciccone and Cervantes were derelict in their duty or not, the police investigation of the incident appears in hindsight to have been at least flawed. The first police on the scene were the ATF, followed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies, followed by Montebello police who actually worked the crime scene. One of the three guns used in the shooting (a .32 caliber automatic) was never recovered and multiple witnesses agree that the Mongols acted in self defense.
The two Mongols involved in the shooting, who have already been publically identified, were Denis “Steaky” Maldonado and Thomas “Danger” Savala.
Al Cavazos believes that official accounts of the Nicola’s shooting fatally flawed the government’s case against the Mongols. Cavazos spent almost a year in jail and eventually “confessed” to racketeering. He has since said, “I didn’t do anything.” In this morning’s feature he told Girardot, “It’s just not right what they did.”
Al Cavazos made a “Citizen Report” to the Montebello Police Department on November 8, 2011 charging that “Officer Christopher Cervantes committed perjury on February 11, 2008 at the Preliminary Hearing for case Number BA325486 The People of the State of California versus Denis F. Maldonado. Officer Cervantes lied about his observations on the night of April 8, 2007 while investigating a shooting which occurred at Nicola’s Bar in the City of Commerce.”
Girardot reported, “I want to go in front of a judge and have the judge ask who’s telling the truth,” Al Cavazos said. “I want the judge to make sure that whoever is lying will go to jail. That’s what I’m asking for. And, I know it won’t be me.”
Girardot summarized Al Cavazos’ complaints as, “’dirty cops’ and ‘BS testimony’ in court ultimately drove everyone in the gang to plead guilty.”
Let’s Quote Some Cops
The Pasadena Newspaper Group story quotes a Glendale ATF spokesman named Christian Hoffman as saying of the Cavazos brothers “They have nothing to lose and all of a sudden he now doesn’t like his sentencing? I would let the evidence of the investigation speak for itself.” For at least the last four years, Hoffman has been the ATF Glendale Field Office’s first line of defense against nosy reporters.
The story also quotes a Montebello Police Captain named Brad Keller who belittled Cavazos complaint to the press by saying, “He’s disputing the facts that were already tried on this case. We took the time to talk to him to find out where he was going with it. But the outcome of the original case showed we did everything right. The evidence proved we followed the law. And, it’s over.”
In a letter to Girardot, Doc Cavazos wrote “These cases are built on lies by the ATF and supported by informants who either (are) trying to save themselves or a loved one…. No one need take our word for this. They need only to review the evidence. As long as the ATF uses the words ‘Drugs, Gangs, Hate Crimes or Terrorism’ a group or individual stands no chance of a fair trial. For this reason most federal cases plead out.”
That was front page headline in Pasadena this morning: Some people think that cops lie. The body of the story below the headline argues that even if they do there is really nothing you can do about it.