Robert Santiago

October 3, 2012

Editorials, Features, News

Twenty-five months after he was locked up, a Mongol in New York named Robert “Commanche” Santiago is still presumed to be guilty until he confesses to a crime he did not commit. There is even a legal name for this obvious absurdity. The ghosts and goblins who rule the fallen down ruin that America has become call it “acceptance of responsibility.”

Federal police now accuse and arrest far too many people to give them trials. The justice system Americans remember – the justice system of passionate argument and precise reasoning, of William Jennings Bryant, Clarence Darrow and Atticus Finch and Perry Mason and all that, the mythical justice system – has now been replaced by administrative justice which happens to be system of justice preferred by the Soviets and the gangsters who run China.

The thing is, you simply cannot ruin enough lives to continue to support the American-police-prison industrial complex if you continue to insist like a liberal baby-weakling that all those prisoners actually be guilty of something.

Everybody Knows

This state of affairs is hardly a secret. The Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy, front page feature on coerced guilty pleas titled “Federal Guilty Pleas Soar As Bargains Trump Trials” on September 24. The feature story quoted a Harvard law professor named Nancy Gertner who called this phenomenon “extremely troubling.”

The feature also described a psychological experiment whose results are scheduled to be published in Northwestern University’s Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology next year. The experiment induced college students into violating a code of academic rules. Some of the students in the experiment actually took the bait and broke the rules and some of them didn’t. The experimenters, a law professor and a psychology professor, then subjected all the students to an academic review board that mimicked the current system of federal justice. Fifty-five percent of the innocent students pled guilty.

Although the essential corruption of federal justice is so well known that even the leading conservative newspaper in the world disapproves of it, the new justice’s victims like Robert Santiago are voiceless, powerless and invisible. Simply put, nobody cares. The lawyers, judges, bailiffs, cops and prison guards and all their supporters and suppliers care about getting paid. Most Americans care about not getting foreclosed. Some Americans care about the mystifying crusade in Afghanistan.

The subject will not be broached in any of the Presidential Debates that begin tonight. The candidates are obsessed with themselves. In all the arguments over how to cut the federal deficit nobody will dare suggest limiting the bloated American police state. Maybe the networks should cancel tonight’s “debate” and give Commanche Santiago an hour or so to tell his story but they won’t. So you will have to read it here.

Operation This Operation That

Robert Santiago was arrested at the conclusion of a federal publicity stunt named “Operation On The Road Again.” “The charges,” a federal press release stated,  were “the culmination of a 21-month undercover investigation led by ATF Special Agents who gained access to the internal operations of the gang.” The gang was the Pagans Motorcycle Club.

After the press conference, the case was virtually impossible to follow and remains so to this day. Whenever a case is corrupt and flawed the Department of Justice always conceals the corruption and flaws in a cloud of confusion. The investigation resulted in two indictments in two separate federal districts. The limited press coverage was sensational and inaccurate. It was headlined as a case of Pagans conspiring to blow up Hells Angels. The closest thing to a villain was a Pagan named Tracy Lahey. Eighteen Pagans including Lahey and one Mongol were arrested.

Robert Santiago was the Mongol. At the time he was the only Mongol in New York.

“What did you do,” Santiago was asked almost a year ago for an earlier story on his case.

“We went to a party and they made a federal case out of it,” he answered. “Literally.”

Lahey, for whom one of the two court cases is named, quickly agreed to cooperate. “I get a house. I get a job. I get money. I get a new identity,” Lahey said in one of his rare forays out of Administrative Segregation.

Santiago was offered a sentence of five years in prison in return for pleading guilty to the charges against him. He refused because he knows he is innocent and he is famously stubborn. So now he faces up to 40 years in prison instead. He has never had a bail hearing.

“Why hasn’t he had a bail hearing yet.” his wife Anna was asked in a phone interview.

“Beats me.”

“What does the lawyer say?” The lawyer is a man named Paul F. Rinaldo.

“The lawyer doesn’t say anything.”

The Accusation

The case against Santiago, the accusation for which he has already been imprisoned for more than two years, boils down to these paragraphs in a search warrant affidavit written by an ATF Agent named Robert Grunder.

“Robert Santiago, also known as ‘Comanche,’ is a member of another outlaw motorcycle club called the Mongols Outlaw Motorcycle Club,” the accusation begins, “ and, in or about May 2010, Santiago was the president of the Mongols Upstate New York Chapter. According to the UC, members of the Pagans frequently gathered for meetings and/ or parties, and purchased, used, and distributed narcotics, including, among others, cocaine, crack cocaine, amphetamines, prescription medications, and marijuana, during those gatherings. The Pagans members sometimes purchased narcotics from the members of other outlaw motorcycle gangs, including the Mongols. During those meetings, the secretary/ treasurer often collected money from other Pagans as their ‘membership dues” a portion of which were transferred to the Mother Club members.”

“Later that afternoon,” Grunder continues, “members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club arrived at Lahey’s residence, and the UC was introduced to “Comanche,” the president of the Mongols Upstate New York Chapter, who was later identified as Robert Santiago.

“Santiago arrived at Lahey’s residence with a woman who was carrying a bag. The woman was identified to the UC as Santiago’s ‘old lady’ (i.e., his girlfriend or wife). The UC also saw Santiago get out of his car carrying an object wrapped in what appeared to be a t-shirt. Santiago walked into the porch area of Lahey’s house and removed a shotgun with a shortened barrel from the t – shirt. Santiago showed Youmans the sawed-off shotgun. Santiago, Youmans, Lahey and the woman accompanying Santiago went into a bedroom in the house and closed the door. A short time later, Youmans and Lahey left the bedroom and Youmans approached the UC. Youmans told the UC that the eight-ball of cocaine would cost $150 and each 1-gram bag of cocaine would cost $50. The UC handed Youmans $250 in cash, and saw Youmans hand that money to Lahey. The UC subsequently observed Lahey hand an amount of cash to Santiago. Approximately 45 minutes later, Youmans asked the UC if Lahey had given the UC the cocaine, and the UC responded that Lahey had not. The UC then saw Youmans speak to Lahey. Within a few minutes, Lahey approached the UC and asked the UC to come to Lahey’s bedroom. As the UC and Lahey entered the bedroom, Santiago walked out of the bedroom. When the UC entered the bedroom, the UC saw a large quantity of a white powdery substance on a table in a bedroom, which, based on the UC’s training and experience, he/she believed to be cocaine. The woman who arrived with Santiago and another woman were seated at the table cutting and packaging the cocaine into small green plastic bags. At or about the same time, Lahey handed the UC four small green plastic bags and two smaller clear plastic bags that each contained a white powdery substance ‘that appeared to be cocaine.’”

Eventually, “After departing Lahey’s residence that evening, the UC gave the remaining bags containing the white powdery substance that he/she had purchased at the Pagans gathering to another ATF agent, who submitted it to a laboratory for testing. According to a report of the laboratory analysis of the substance obtained by the UC the substance tested positive for the presence of cocaine.”

Drug Mule

Santiago has denied all this from the moment he was charged. Most offensive to Santiago and his wife is the accusation that he attended the party with another woman who acted as his drug mule. Santiago has always insisted that the entire scene, as described in the affidavit is completely fabricated. There are numerous examples of ATF fabrication both in and out of the public record.

Covertly recorded audio surveillance of the party also appears to undermine the case against Santiago. The unnamed undercover agent turned the recorder on and off numerous times as if he was trying to edit his conversations as he recorded them. The agent can also be heard snorting a “white powdery substance” and praising its quality.

An eventual search of Santiago’s residence based on Grunder’s affidavit found evidence (indicia) that Santiago is actually a member of the Mongols. In a shed behind his house, police found a sawed off shotgun with a broken handle, an unloaded .22 caliber revolver and five rounds of .22 caliber ammunition. Santiago had a previous felony drug conviction. He is now charged with “Narcotics Distribution,” the “Possession and Use of Firearms in Furtherance of Narcotics Distribution,” and “Firearms Possession.”

Franks Hearing

Santiago has had a strained relationship with his attorney. The accused man eventually composed three handwritten letters to the judge in the case, the Honorable Kenneth M. Karas, requesting something called a Franks hearing. These hearings, named for a United States Supreme Court ruling in a case named Franks v. Delaware, allow defendants to challenge evidence collected during a search based on false statements.

Santiago wrote his letters in November 2011. His lawyer finally presented them to the judge in July 2012. Judge Karas granted Santiago’s request. The Franks hearing was Monday. It was the first Franks hearing in the history of the Southern Federal Judicial District of New York and it devolved into a seven-hour-long argument between Commanche Santiago and his lawyer.

The government called two witnesses: ATF agent Mark Maher who may have been the case agent in the investigation and Bryan Digirolamo who wrote an affidavit for another defendant in the case. The government did not call Agent Grunder because Grunder would have had to travel all the way across the state of New York to attend the hearing. Santiago’s lawyer did not object that the man who wrote the affidavit in question was not there to defend or explain his accusations. Santiago objected to that, too.

The government also changed its story during the hearing. In court Santiago was accused of bringing two female drug mules to the party instead of just one. The government refused “to call the undercover agent at this time because it believes that the Franks motions will be adequately addressed by the testimony of Special Agent Digirolamo, specifically whether there arc any material misrepresentations or omissions in the affidavits when compared against the recordings. Moreover, the undercover agent has received credible threats against his/her life by members of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Club, and thus an enormous security effort would be required to make the undercover agent available as a witness at the hearing.”

So after more than two years in jail, Santiago was once again unable to confront his accuser. After two years he is still presumed guilty until he can prove himself innocent. And, by the end of Monday he was convinced he had been denied his right to competent counsel. And, of course, he still lives in a concrete and steel cage.

And, the most important thing about Commanche Santiago’s case is that his predicament is typical. His case is not an aberration of federal justice. Robert Santiago epitomizes federal justice.

Which is the reason why you shouldn’t expect to hear either Romney or Obama talk about justice at any time during this year’s campaign.



37 Responses to “Robert Santiago”

  1. Robin Coon Says:

    Robert COMANCHE is one of the most stand up men I have ever met. Ride on My Brother.

  2. SingSing Says:

    God bless the SouthSide Chapter of the Black N White nation!

  3. Marnie Tunay Says:

    Well, at least in the way you tell the story, it does seem awfully strange that it would be Santiago the ATF would be going after in particular and not Lahey… It was Lahey’s house. It was Lahey who made the drug deal. I would have thought the Mongols would be supporting Santiago and getting him a new lawyer. Where’s that alleged bikerly ‘one for all and all for one’ when a brother needs it, eh?

  4. Snow Says:

    In the eyes of justice the blind fold is truly on the side of the government, this whole situation is so disheartening. Prayers and best wishes for Robert Santiago, his family and all those trapped in the mad grab for power over the masses. Respect, Snow.

  5. mdeangee Says:

    Rebel, where is the upstate chapter of the Mongols located?

  6. GREENEYEZ Says:

    Ok Got it….thnx for clearing this up 4 me….


  7. brainfart Says:

    “Moreover, the undercover agent has received credible threats against his/her life by members of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Club”

    I guess you have to know the geography, timeline, and some of the people involved to see the humor in the article Rebel wrote about above nested in the words of the article I pasted in reply. Could just be another brain fart and there’s no connection at’all. Could be more police BS about clubs, but then again it all makes sense to me reading Rebel’s article and seeing that one line.

    Never open a club’s doors to grow just for a fast headcount because of a new local turf threat, you let the flies in. And then some poor brother (from another club in this instance) gets jacked up just for trying be a diplomat in a balance of power play.

    When worlds collide, the cops make hay. And club leadership never learns. Anyone else see the pattern in the past 30 years of club RICO cases?

    But at least it seems to me this club swats back at the flies pretty hard when they figure it all out. But now even that appears (if one connects the dots like cops do)to be screwing over the poor guy at the heart of the story here. When you toss bombs at a witness, your brother sits in jail because he can’t confront the witness. Even if he is a brother from another mother as here, you still fucked a brother and didn’t even know it, impatient bastards. It’s a fucked up biker world.

    [The link to the first reported article about the pipe bomb on a sleepy little suburban street when no one had a clue what it was about got cut off, sorry, not important for anything anyway.]

  8. GREENEYES Says:

    @Brainfart…… I just re-read what you posted & honestly speaking,I dont know what exactly you r pointing at with your “link”. First of it has Nothing to do with this ‘article’,and also i am sure you read enough about that there were 2 separate indictments. Not all 17 guys are charged with the same ‘crime’. What u r referring to is the 32 count indictment. That has absolutely nothing to do w/the 12 count indictment.
    But everyone is entitled to their own opinion i guess. Just makes no sense to me.

    Maybe you could help me understand what Mr.Brainfart(lol) is pointing at w/the other article……

    And no disrespect intended by any means @Brainfart….

  9. GREENEYES Says:

    @Brainfart…… I just re-read what you posted & honestly speaking,I dont know what exactly you r pointing at with your “link”. First of it has Nothing to do with this ‘article’,and also i am sure you read enough about that there were 2 separate indictments. Not all 17 guys are charged with the same ‘crime’. What u r referring to is the 32 count indictment. That has absolutely nothing to do w/the 12 count indictment.
    But everyone is entitled to their own opinion i guess. Just makes no sense to me.

    Maybe you could help me understand what Mr.Brainfart(lol) is pointing at w/the other article……

    And no disrespect intended by any means @Brainfart..

  10. ArmorClad Says:

    Greeneyez, you’re welcome

  11. GREENEYEZ Says:

    Please disregard my last comment. I get what what you mean now.
    IAlso @ ArmorClad Thank You

  12. ArmorClad Says:

    @Glenn S

    Thank you.

    Much of my post got garbled/ cut off at the end, and I was too late to edit, but I think my point got made none the less. On this particular site, I’m most likely preaching to the choir any gow.

    Respect to and prayers to Commanche, his friend, and family

  13. GREENEYEZ Says:

    Brainfart…I read all that, and your point???

  14. Glenn S. Says:

    ArmorClad, that was very well said.

  15. Dizzy Says:

    Rebel,Thank You for publishing this again.
    To Greeneyez I love you my Sister and Comanche I love you my Brother .
    Greeneyez wanted me to tell you that Comanche and the lawyer had a serious talk, and the lawyer is now very committed, he is going gung ho. As we know the feds changed their story around. It looks very good on our side. The case will drag for a long time.
    God bless you.
    From Diane and Greeneyez.

  16. brainfart Says:

    Threats against the other UCs, eh? That never happens. LOL Have to go to web archives to find this story now. Local town paper, not even the same town, then the story just vanished.

    Pagans motorcycle gang eyed in Fair Lawn pipe bomb attack

    Friday, 17 June 2011 00:11 Jerry DeMarco
    ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: The search for whoever tossed a pipe bomb filled with nails that broke through the walls of three Fair Lawn homes, caused other damage and terrified residents is focusing on the Pagans motorcycle gang, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

    Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli didn’t respond to an inquiry about the ongoing investigation.

    However, CLIFFVIEW PILOT confirmed the information with two independent sources who have direct knowledge of the incident. The intended target was a former member of the gang, one of the sources said.

    Investigators have said the Pagans have boosted their recruiting efforts over the past year, primarily because of the emergence of a Hells Angels chapter here in North Jersey. Before then, incidents involving the Pagans primarily occurred in South Jersey and the Philadelphia area.

    It’s unclear whether the target had gone over to the Pagans’ rival or simply left the gang life altogether.

    But just last fall, a federal indictment named 17 accused of participating in a wide-ranging campaign of assault, extortion and murder conspiracy that included obtaining explosives to launch at targeted Hells Angels in New York and New Jersey. Several are ex-cons, including at least one who served time for murder, records show.

    Hit in a series of raids in the tri-state area were four Pagan hideouts in New Jersey. Federal agents seized nearly three dozen firearms and an explosive device.

    According to the indictment, those charged were ordered to be ready to die or go to prison.

    “As this case suggests, violent and criminal motorcycle gangs are not quaint vestiges of the past,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District. “Some of the defendants allegedly plied their criminal trade not in the inner city but in quiet communities like the Catskills.”

    The June 5 explosion at 18-11 Hunter Place in Fair Lawn “caused the pipe to fragment into numerous small pieces that traveled outward, striking neighboring cars and houses,” Molinelli said the morning after the bombing.

    “The force of the pipe bomb caused the fragments to travel through the walls into the interior of the house, as well as two other dwellings located at 18-14 and 18-02 Hunter Place. In addition, several vehicles were also damaged.”

    No injuries were reported.

    Molinelli asked that anyone with information about the attack call the Fair Lawn Police Department (201-796-1400) or his Major Crimes Unit (201-226-5500).

    The incident was first reported on CLIFFVIEW PILOT. For the coverage, click HERE.,9602b10e&icp=1&.intl=us&sig=tF2B5EsfLvAMQyh5O1WZhw–

  17. ArmorClad Says:

    Unfortunately as Rebel pointed out in the article, this sort of thing has become the norm in the American in-justice system, not an isolated incident. I speak from experience.

    I fear we are only witnessing the tip of the iceberg. As the corporate sponsored penal industry continues to grow unchecked, more and more of our liberties will be stripped away, especially once incarcerated. I honestly doubt anything short of an armed revolution can stem the tidep at this point, and that will never happen these days. Our PC society has completely castrated the average American male. Most of them are content to slap an American flag ribbon on the back of their cage and talk about how wonderful it is to be “free”. After all stories like this d evevening news, There’s not enough between discussing

  18. Glenn S. Says:

    My guess is that, these days, to get a skillful, experienced, aggressive defense attorney to put a criminal case on his front burner, at least act like he gives a shit, push for the wheels to turn faster, explore every legal and factual avenue, (from bail hearings to jury consultants) and risk relationships with judges, prosecutors, and cops, and see the case all the way to a verdict and first appeal–mid six figures. Just an educated guess.

    The prosecution, on the other hand, has the deep pockets of the taxpayer, the cops at his beck and call, the power to grant transactional immunity to state witnesses, and the power press real and imagined charges against defense witnesses.

    And there’s always some shrill victims’ advocate whining about how “the criminal has too many rights.”

  19. Rebel Says:

    Dear comanches eldest,

    I am not sure that he wants to fire his lawyer at this point. And, it is not a matter of money. Lawyers are not interchangeable. Some of them are pretty good. Some of them are satires. In his current lawyer’s defense, at least the guy knows the case.


  20. comanches eldest. Says:

    How much money for a worth a shit lawyer? I can help.

  21. Rebel Says:

    Dear Glenn S.

    No. There was no ruling and there probably won’t be one until October 15 or later.


  22. Just concerned Says:

    Why Wont the Mongols get him a lawyer worth a shit,…A fundraiser or something!!!

  23. Glenn S. Says:

    So was there a ruling issued as a result of the Franks hearing? Sounds like the Bill of Rights has, once again, taken a back seat to the convenience of the government.

  24. Junior Says:

    Rebel: At the beginning you mentioned how our justice system is a system of administrative justice. You are exactly right. This is why i have said many times before, and ill say it again: we must learn how to stand the rule of Law (Constitution) within the confines of the administrative state. The simplest way is to avoid equity altogether, … escaping your mothers womb doesnt put one in equity, more than that is required. -Junior

  25. GREENEYEZ Says:

    Dear Rebel
    Thanks for covering this story again,your help is greatly appreciated.
    I’ll stay in touch
    Comanche1%er’s wife…

  26. Rebel Says:

    Dear Glenn S.

    Good catch. I’ll fix it now. Freudian slip.


  27. Rebel Says:

    Dear One Eye,

    First he has to find somebody who is more competent than his present attorney which is hard to do in jail. If he just asks for a change of lawyer he will get appointed someone who might not be as good and who will certainly know the case less well. The villain here isn’t the defense lawyer. The villain is the prosecutor. Prosecutors take an oath to serve justice not their careers and their batting averages.


  28. Drifter Says:

    Great job as always Reb on bringing these police state tactics to light, that seems the standard mode of operation in this era. I wish him well and hope another law firm gets this case and goes for it, sounds like he needs a heavy hitter at this point. I will be watching this case.

    These maneuvers by the state are definitely becoming more common, along with the state upping what used to be innocuous charges into felonies on a regular basis.

    Waiting patiently and hope Junior has something to say about this, always very wise and smart.


  29. Stevo Says:

    God bless Comanche, his lovely wife and his two little boys who have not seen their Daddy for over half of their time on earth, and give them strength to fight the good fight.

    God damn the lying, self seving bastards of the ATF to hell and back. Rise up America, rise up against these nazi scum before it’s too late.

    Stevo Onepercenter

  30. One Eye Says:

    I’m not very savvy when it comes to this, but can he not fire his counsel and retain someone who is actually competent? I can’t understand how a lawyer will defend an absolute piece of shit like Casey Anthony, but refuses to anything for a client where the “evidence” is so egregiously false.

  31. Glenn S. Says:

    Rebel said: “Which is the reason why you shouldn’t expect to hear either Bush or Obama talk about justice at any time during this year’s campaign.”

    I guess you meant Romney or Obama, but its an easy mistake to make.

    Great article, though. Wonder if this issue will attract political attention before the private prisons industry wholly owns the government.

  32. 10Guage Says:

    Absolutely spot on Rebel…..AS ALWAYS

    Strength, Respect, Honor

  33. Base Says:

    Just because you read it on the Internet ….

    On the way to work this evening there were a couple Hypo’s (slang for State Police) that had the road leading in to the place I work staked out, handing out tickets. They do it from time to time mainly because of the size of our work force is roughly 2400. So at shift change they can issue upwards of 30 to 50 tickets.

    Anyway in break room/ law, cops, bust etc… was the topic. So I pulled out the kindel and told the people I was sitting with that a $125.00 may be a bad way to start a night shift. But how would you like to be this guy.

    I let them read your article, they were /are speechless. Had one person who is a real jack ass in denial say “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet “. I was about to retort, but other folks at table started in on him so I just let it go.

    Always amazes me how clueless people are.

    Ol ‘Ladyrider…..thanks for that link.Very informative

    And Rebel as always, on point.


  34. Ol'LadyRider Says:

    I’m assuming his lawyer knows this stuff? Maybe just doesn’t care? It’s possible that detention was addressed, say, two effin’ years ago… But the code clearly states it can be readdressed, especially if information arises that was unknown at the time of the detention hearing. WTF?????

  35. pizzo Says:

    why dont his club get him a dam good lawyer an a private investigator
    bottom line to do that all it would take is one yes one month of monthly dues an defense fund dues to cover the lawyer an private I…..

  36. Red&Gold Says:

    As always, Rebel, you shine a light on things others would rather leave obscured in the darkness, but it is nice to see the Wall Street Journal (and I am hoeful, others will follow soon) pay more attention to this subject. According to the stats, the average American has no idea how lopsided the numbers are. In this fine land of ours, in both state and federal court, fewer than 5 percent of the criminal cases are resolved by jury trials. fewer than 5 PERCENT!! LEO tactics of breaking the law to make those they wish to arrest look as if they are breaking the law while giving rats and snitches a paid ride, and a get out of jail free card, while themselves being allowed to commit crimes as long as they lie about the alleged crimes the target(s) never committed, leads next to Prosecutorial tactics of piling on charges and threatening longer sentences pressure many people into surrendering their right to a jury trial as we here know all to well…

  37. Vikingtrotter Says:


    Try and find a video of Johnny Cash’s song, “Mercy Seat”…..Seems to fit this story much better.

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