For all practical purposes, the federal racketeering case against bikers in and around Rock Hill, South Carolina ended yesterday. It was a federal case because, since the Turkette Supreme Court decision in 1981, any crime may be designated as a federal crime. So some small percentage of crimes are now routinely federalized in order to better guarantee the conviction of those accused, maximize their punishment and solicit favorable publicity for bureaucrats who have chosen to spend their lives processing citizens into convicts.
Three defendants were given life ruining sentences yesterday. Mark Baker was sentenced to 188 months in a federal penitentiary. Dave Oiler got 200 months and Bruce Long 168 months. A fourth defendant named Carlos Hernandez, who had practically nothing to do with the Hells Angels, Red Devils or Southern Gentlemen will be sentenced in July. In a Darwinian world informed by police state propaganda, Hernandez is an afterthought. His life is ruined now, too but he is just another guy who had his life ruined. He is not really newsworthy. He never wore a patch.
Baker, Oiler and Long were important to the men who ruined them because of the mythic power of the piece of embroidery each of them used to wear. They were all Hells Angels. They all wore the death head on their backs. As the American police state evolves, it has become increasingly important to the state that police be regarded as mythic heroes. Mythic heroes demand mythic villains and that was the role assigned to the Hells Angels in the South Carolina case.
Although the case had absolutely nothing to do with “the Hells Angels” but rather included a minority of defendants who were members of the Hells Angels, police, prosecutors and local reporters talked and wrote as if the prosecution was a battle against all 3,000 or so members of the club on six continents. The target of this case, was always an old-time Hells Angel named Diamond Dan Bifield. Bifield was targeted so as to make an example of him to people who only knew Bifield as brave, honest, generous and admirable. Bifield’s sin was that he regarded many laws with the same contempt with which federal authorities regarded him. He has spent most of his life in prison. And he had to be locked up again as soon as possible before his fearless anti-authoritarianism spread. The other defendants in the case were simply collateral damage of “closing the loop:” Which is what prosecutors call getting their narrative together.
So, at yesterday’s press conference, convened to celebrate the personal tragedy wrought by this case, three Hells Angels cuts were displayed on tripod easels. The easels were arranged behind a table littered with guns. There were so many guns that 18 long rifles and another Angels cut decorated the front of the table, as if standing guard. And before the long guns spilled many boxes, packets and baggies containing ammunition and recreational drugs. The scene was reminiscent of a cynical police drama. Justice was besides the point. Truth was relative not absolute. What mattered were the symbols. In big cities everybody – cops, reporters, lawyers, school children, Montessori teachers, everybody – calls these hackneyed spectacles “dope on the table photo ops.” In Columbia, South Carolina the spectacle retains a greater impact than in Yankee Baltimore or Yankee Miami.
The press conference was an opportunity for the men who successfully ruined these lives to gloat. What may be most distressing is that the speakers seemed to actually believe their own bullshit, even as they stumbled and orated through their memorized talking points.
Starring The Table
Referring to his carefully arranged display of theatrical properties, United States Attorney Bill Nettles said, “Let’s be clear about one thing. I have a Constitutional duty, this office has a Constitutional duty, to both protect an individuals right to own guns and to protect…to protect the community from those that should not. During the investigation and prosecution of the Hells Angels, the Hells Angels Task Force seized more than one hundred weapons…. The Hells Angels Task…the Hells Angels Task Force took these weapons from the Hells Angels.” So that explained the display. “What we did was remove these weapons from our streets, put these defendants in jail and the result is make ours a safer community.
Reporters who covered the press conference were outnumbered by its participants. FBI Agent David Thomas told the assembled few “this investigation showcases what the FBI along with our partners do best. We disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations. In this investigation the evidence is clear, as I think you can see….” And then he grandly gestured to the display as if it was evidence of anything.
Nettles running dog, Julius N. “Jay” Richardson, said “This investigation began in response to community concerns raised by citizens to local law enforcement. Concerns about rival outlaw motorcycle gangs and the criminal conduct they were engaged in.” He later explained that the rival “gangs” were the Hells Angels and “the American Associates of Outlaws.” The federalization of this investigation, Richardson claimed, “managed to open a window into the secretive criminal underworld of the Hells Angels. As a result, agents were able to remove from our community what you see on and below the table.”
Throughout the event, the table remained aloof and modestly silent.