State and federal authorities have been trying to ruin George Christie, the founding President of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club Ventura charter, with minimal success for more than 30 years. Christie is “very difficult to investigate,” a “law enforcement analyst” told the Los Angeles Times two decades ago. “He’s so clean. He keeps himself removed. He’s not supposed to be doing the dirty business.”
So there has been a decades long, difficult investigation of Christie and it began when he decided to join a motorcycle club. “Being a Hells Angel means that people listen to you when you talk, and they move out of your way when you walk down the street,” he said in 1983. Then he added “There’s a lot of power and you want to make sure that guys that get into the club aren’t going to abuse it.”
The same things might be said about prosecutors and police except that it is easier to become a cop or a prosecutors than it is to become a Hells Angel. Because, the Angels are fussier about who they let it.
The next year police seethed when Christie carried the 1984 Olympic Torch through Ventura. The year after that he accused the ATF of bombing the Ventura clubhouse and he called a 1985, nationwide, FBI crackdown on the Angels a waste of taxpayers money.
Two years later Christie and an Angel named Danny Fabricant (who would later be a target in what was eventually called Operation Black Biscuit) were charged with soliciting the murder of a drug dealer and snitch named Tom Chaney. Most of that prosecution was based on the testimony of a heroin addict and professional snitch named Michael Mulhern. Federal authorities faked Chaney’s murder and Mulhern testified that Christie then paid him $500. But the investigation came up short again. A jury found Christie innocent. “George appeared to be very honest and very sincere, and very dedicated not only to his family, but the Hells Angels,” one of the jurors explained two weeks later. “He was set up.”
After Christie testified for Fabricant in a separate case a Ventura County Assistant District Attorney accused Christie of being “a folk hero,” although he was never formally charged with that. That was also about the time that Christie started giving lectures to college students on the ethics of journalists and prosecutors.
In 1990 the late Mike Wallace, whose interview preparation and style had a tendency to make important men soil themselves, asked Christie about a Hells Angels bylaw that stated “No Drug Burns.” The bylaw originated in the 60’s when some Hells Angels in the Bay area cleaned up the predatory, recreational drug business in Haight-Ashbury. The alleged intervention of those bikers made it safe for hippies to buy drugs again so that eventually Bill Clinton might puff but not inhale. And, it was in the late 60s that some Angels began wearing a small patch that read, “You Can Trust Me. I’m a Hells Angel.” The bylaws Wallace saw had been seized in a 1987 federal raid. And, when Wallace sprung his ambush Christie kept his cool and simply replied that he didn’t know the provenance of that piece of paper and that “The Hells Angels is not involved in narcotics transactions as an organization.”
Police also found something to complain about when the Ventura charter held a Saint Patrick’s Day Party for attendees of the HAMC World Run in 1998 to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary. All the old accusations against Christie made the local papers. Ventura Police Chief Richard Thomas eliminated most parking spaces in downtown Ventura and threatened to tow any bike that was parked there. Downtown Ventura merchants complained. “Merchants are looking forward to them coming downtown,” a sewing shop owner said. “They like to show off their bikes and that will draw people downtown. They act like the Ku Klux Klan is coming to our city.”
This brouhaha caused a division in Ventura with the Angels, the city merchants, and most of Ventura’s residents on one side and the Ventura Police and professional biker experts on the other. “This must be Chief Thomas’ idea of a constitutional welcome,” Christie said then. “I think there are people in town who feel they want to send a message to us.” The World Run and the party proceeded without a single murder or rape. Many of the Hells Angels gathered for a group photo on the steps of the Ventura City Hall and police seethed again.
Selling Drugs To Kids
Two months later police raided Christie’s home and arrested him when they found half a gram of cocaine in his nightstand. That investigation eventually led to 59 separate charges against Christie when he, his 25-year-old son George Christie III, his estranged wife Cheryl, his daughter Moriya Christie, her husband Layne Bell and other Hells Angels were indicted for various federal offenses. Christie was accused of selling massive quantities of prescription drugs to high school students. The indictment charged that a local airman named Joshua Adams had stolen 297,000 Vicodin tablets and 466,000 Valium tablets and sold them to a friend of Christie’s son named Rogelio Botello who then sold them to Christie and his family members. A snitch told the grand jury that Christie was in charge of the sales.
In his hatchet job on the Hells Angels, titled Angels of Death, biker authority, “investigative journalist” and ATF propagandist Julien Sher accused Christie and the Ventura Angels of selling prescription pills to high school students. The book describes Christie “laughing and joking with several other bikers about one member’s Vicodin addiction.” Sher also states that “Vicodin was getting into the schools via…the Hells Angels and their youthful followers.” In a series of interviews with The Aging Rebel in 2011, Sher also asserted that he got along well with Christie and had been welcomed into Christie’s home.
Christie spent almost a year in jail until he eventually pled guilty to conspiracy to sell prescription drugs and no contest to a charge of filing a false tax return. The other 57 charges were dismissed and Christie was released from custody.
The Tattoo Godfather
But, the difficult investigation never stopped. Last July 29 Christie and four other men were indicted for conspiring to take over the tattoo business in Ventura by firebombing Christie’s competitors. Christie’s co-defendants were Kyle Douglas Gilbertson, Benito Hurtado, Brian Andrew Russell and Richard Reeves Russell, III. Two unindicted co-conspirators named James David Ivans, Jr. and Jared Ostrum “Crash” Plomell are cooperating with prosecutors. A superseding indictment embellished and polished the initial charges last December 20.
Christie owns a tattoo parlor in Ventura called The Ink House. The competitors, who were actually firebombed in July 2007, were two shops named Scratch the Surface and Twisted Ink. Christie is also accused, but not charged, with having co-conspirators firebomb a Ventura tattoo shop called Slingers on October 13, 2000. Although the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged Slingers’ arson, evidence pertaining to that unsolved case may be used against Christie as “evidence of other criminal conduct” during his trial and at his sentencing.
Christie is also accused of taxing other tattoo shops in Ventura County. One of the cooperating co-conspirators alleges that Christie would send Hells Angels prospects out to collect the taxes from competing shops and then put the money in the Ink House cash register.
Games Prosecutors Play
On March 13, Benito Hurtado pled guilty to misprision of a felony for being part of the alleged conspiracy and then giving “evasive answers” to an FBI Agent. He will probably be sentenced to probation on July 23, 2012. The plea agreement was negotiated by Federal Defender Angel Navarro who previously represented former Mongols President Ruben “Doc’ Cavazos. Hurtado will now be a convicted felon but he will not go to prison and taking the plea was probably a smart move.
The problem all accused have in the Federal Central District of California is that justice here is a cruel game – like playing Monopoly for blood. There is no uniformity in the “local rules of procedure” between federal districts. So in some districts defense lawyers are given timely access to all of the evidence prosecutors hold against their clients. But, in the Central District of California prosecutors don’t have to reveal the factual basis for charges against an accused man until ten days before trial. In some cases evidence is not disclosed until the day before a trial begins.
This particular “rule of procedure” allows federal prosecutors in Los Angeles to lie, bluff and mislead the victims of their prosecutions. In biker cases in this District, defendants are usually left to guess about who is cooperating and who is not and what the Department of Justice actually knows, what it is guessing and what it is lying about. The current rules in the Los Angeles District actually encourage prosecutors to withhold evidence of the actual innocence of the people they prosecute.
In March Christie’s lawyer, W. Michael Mayock, tried to convince the presiding judge in the case, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, to force prosecutors to disclose, or “discover,” some of the evidence against Christie including evidence of Christie’s actual innocence and evidence that would impeach the credibility of the snitches. Mayock also moved to eliminate hearsay statements from the prosecution’s case and he entered a standard motion for dismissal of all the charges against his client.
On April 9 Judge Nguyen replied:
“The request for a “James” hearing is denied. All three Motions are denied; the Court finds the government in compliance with its discovery obligations. Motion to Preclude Admissions (the hearsay) is conditionally denied, subject to the proper foundation being laid during trial. The Court encourages the parties to continue to work together on discovery production and issues.”
So the difficult investigation to find a way to lock up George Christie and really hurt him bad this time, not gentle like before, continues. The trial in this case has already been postponed twice. It had been scheduled to begin January 31 but was then continued until May 1. It is now scheduled to begin December 3, 2012.