The hot air balloon called Operation Red Harvest finally started deflating today, a mere thirteen months after the self-congratulatory press conference.
Red Harvest was the secret investigation that began in December 2010 and resulted in a grand jury voting out 226 separate criminal indictments in April 2012. Saundra Rhodes, the blowhard who runs the Horry County Police Department bragged, “We believe this will have a significant impact on the Hell’s Angels. In my 18 years with the department I’ve never seen a grand jury investigation that netted 226 indictments. This is a pretty big deal.”
Today Jimmy Richardson, the Solicitor for the 15th Circuit of South Carolina dropped 103 of those indictments. The charges included numerous counts of conspiracy, assault and battery, kidnapping, tattooing and lynching. They were all trumped up. “What we did was we went through…we looked at each charge individually, and the stuff that we couldn’t prove, we dismissed it” Richardson said.
The Horry County case is a straightforward example of using prosecution as a means to inflict extra-judicial punishment. It is redundantly unconstitutional and is itself probably a crime of malice. The victims were singled out because they were Hells Angels. Although many people find the very notion of the Hells Angels offensive the same Constitutional provision that protects the Baptist church also protects them.
The previous 15th Circuit Solicitor, a man named Greg Hembree, who initiated the case virtually admitted the wildly run charges were a kind of bureaucratic punishment. “It’s going to take up a lot of their time and energy and resources to defend these charges,” he bragged at the news conference.
Most of the charges that were dismissed today were the fruit of a single dispute between neighbors. A group of Hells Angels was having a backyard barbecue on the other side of a fence from a barbecue hosted by an off-duty cop. The cop told the Angels to watch their language. When they did not, a fist fight between two men ensued. Presumably the cop lost. The tattooing charges criminalized two separate incidents in which non-club members were allegedly compelled to remove club only tattoos.
The victims who had charges against them dropped today are: Michael V. Parent, Thomas Allen Doucette, Sr., John Marshall Volosin, Ellis Howard Schindler, Joshua Burnette, Storm Anthony M. Bain, Bradley Joseph Trinceri, Steven Marion Brinsfield, Kevin George Schmidt, John R. Bain, David Tennant Graham, Carl Matthew Murdock, Jr., Jeffrey Carl Lozier, Scott Richard Rowan, John Carlton Dyar, Scott Alan Hoy, Jesse Elmer Dietz, Glenn Matthew O’Brien, Joshua Joseph Johnson and Joseph R. Trombino, Jr.
Defendants in the case still face 123 charges which are mostly related to the growth and distribution of marijuana. Marijuana is legal to possess and use, usually with medical restrictions, in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
John Hilliard, an attorney who represents several of the accused, told Myrtle Beach television WBTW, “We ‘re certainly happy that those cases are dismissed, but we still have the other cases to deal with and we’re moving through that process. We’re certainly anxious to have it done because the negative impact on their lives has been enormous.”