The defense rested Monday in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota trial of two Hells Angels accused of shooting five people in a motel parking lot in Custer State Park about 70 miles south of Sturgis during the Black Hills Rally in 2006.
The defense took less than two days to complete and called just four witnesses. The prosecution called 43 witnesses in seven and a half days.
The defendants are Chad Wilson, 33, a patched member of the San Diego Chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and Haney , British Columbia HA prospect John Midmore, 35. Wilson admits shooting Thomas Hass, Al Mathews, Danny Neace, Claudia Wables and Susan Evans-Martin. The three men are members of the American Outlaw Association (AOA), which is commonly called the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
The Angels and the Outlaws began a blood feud in April, 1974 when members of the AOA allegedly killed three Hells Angels in Florida. In the last 34 years the feud has never been completely resolved. Outlaws, for example, still sometimes wear a club-only patch that reads ADIOS, an acronym for Angels Die In Outlaw States.
Wilson and Midmore’s defense was, in essence, that they were innocent victims of Outlaws intent on perpetuating this vendetta. The prosecution’s case stands on the assertion that the Outlaws and their two female companions were innocent tourists victimized by an unprovoked Hells Angels drive-by shooting. Both sides concede that everybody was carrying big bore automatic handguns.
Integral to the defense, was police intelligence that indicated that members of the Outlaws intended to attack members of the Hells Angels during the Black Hills Rally at Sturgis that year. The defense asked the jury to believe that the two defendants were aware of this police intelligence and so they had a reasonable fear of members of the AOA.
The last prosecution witness was Danny Neace, a member of the AOA from Michigan who is under indictment for attacking a member of the Hells Angels. And, in its opening statement the defense harped on Neace’s refusal to answer questions about this alleged attack. Defense attorney David Kenner told the jury that, “That hostile mind-set that you heard from Mr. Neace and others permeated this group of Outlaws…this high-ranking group of Outlaws.”
The defense then called its first witness, a “professor of animation” named James Tavernetti, who showed the jury a cartoon. Over the repeated objections of Prosecutor Michael Moore, Judge Gene Kean allowed the presentation.
So the jury saw a cartoon Chad Wilson, prevented by traffic and cartoon Outlaws in front of and behind his cartoon truck, where the two cartoon Hells Angels were “sitting ducks,” getting out and firing a cartoon gun in defense of his life.
The prosecutor then futilely cross-examined the animation professor, but since the professor was not actually at the scene of the shooting he had little to add to the prosecution’s case except to agree that in the cartoon, it sure looked like the Hells Angels had room to escape.
Psychologist And Pathologist
The defense then called psychologist Thomas Streed who testified that any competent psychologist could see that obviously the defendant’s action were spontaneous and not premeditated. The psychologist observed that the shooting took place in a crowded parking lot with police near by, that the defendants had apparently given no thought to escape and that they were eating ice cream at the time.
Streed told the jury that the prosecution’s theory of the crime was fatuous. “I see spontaneity and absolutely no evidence of planning,” Streed testified. “Why would you bring ice cream to a gunfight?”
This expert witness also made the prosecution look slightly less than highly qualified during cross-examination. Moore dared the psychologist to explain the discrepancy between statements made by witnesses and the defendants. So Streed did. He implied that the witnesses were intimidated by the Outlaws. “Witness statements are always problematic in biker cases,” he testified.
The defense then called Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who has appeared on a show called Autopsy on HBO. And, he testified that the victims injuries were consistent with Wilson’s statements.
Finally Chad Wilson took the stand in his own defense.
He told the jury that he and his co-defendant Midmore were driving to a strip club when they stopped near the shooting scene to smoke a joint. Wilson went into a store to buy snacks and water and discovered that he had stumbled into a nest of Outlaws. He hurried back out to the truck to escape but it was too late. His Hells Angels tattoos had given him away.
According to Wilson, the two men tried to drive away but were prevented by traffic, and possibly the effects of the dope, from getting out of the lot and onto the road. When Outlaws surrounded them Wilson got out. One outlaw who was not injured, named Nathan Frazier pulled a gun and dropped it. Another Outlaw named Lon Baillargeon pulled a gun and fired at Wilson. “I was terrified,” Wilson told the jury. “There’s nine of them, two of us.”
Wilson said he then pulled an automatic pistol out of his belt, crouched and shot back as Frazier bent over to pick up his gun. “One thing led to another and it didn’t stop. If I didn’t shoot back, they were going to keep shooting at me until I was dead.”
Neither Frasier and Baillargeon were hit by the admittedly stoned Wilson’s fire.
After about four seconds, Wilson testified, he got back in the truck and escaped.
During cross-examination, the prosecutor argued that Wilson’s shooting of five other people who the defendant admitted were not actually shooting at him while missing the two men he claimed were actually shooting at him was proof of premeditation rather than intoxication.
After Wilson and Midmore’s escape, they discarded the gun Wilson had used in the shooting along the road. After deciding that no one was following them, the two threw away two other guns on a logging trail and then abandoned their truck. Eventually, they were arrested by a Custer State Park ranger named James Laverick.
In his closing remarks, the prosecutor emphasized that Wilson shot five people so obviously he was shooting. But nobody had shot him or his truck so it would be reasonable to conclude that nobody was shooting at him. And, the prosecutor told the jury that numerous eye-witnesses supported his logic. The witnesses all “agree that the Outlaws were not the aggressors,” he said.
The case is now in the hands of the jury and a verdict may be reached as early as Wednesday.