The Mongols Motorcycle Club is suing United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder. The government agency Holder administers is ironically called the Department of Justice. And through its support, or puppet, agency called the office of the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, the “Justice Department” has been trying to seize the Mongols name and the club’s logo since October 2008.
The idea has always been to outlaw membership in the Mongols, and eventually all motorcycle clubs, by criminalizing the use of the club’s principal identifiers. Five years ago, to celebrate the arrests of former club president Ruben “Doc” Cavazos and 78 other people, the Justice Department grandly announced.
“The racketeering indictment seeks the forfeiture of the trademarked ‘Mongols’ name, which is part of the ‘patch’ members wear on their motorcycle jackets.
“’In addition to pursuing the criminal charges set forth in the indictment, for the first time ever, we are seeking to forfeit the intellectual property of a gang,’ said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. ‘The name “Mongols,” which is part of the gang’s “patch” that members wear on their motorcycle jackets, was trademarked by the gang. The indictment alleges that this trademark is subject to forfeiture. We have filed papers seeking a court order that will prevent gang members from using or displaying the name “Mongols.” If the court grants our request for this order, then if any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back.’”
John Ciccone, the ATF agent who spent eight months in 2008 and 2009 enthusiastically trying to prove that government press releases carry the power of law, put it more succinctly in a national television appearance two weeks ago. “You know, if you take the patch off them, they’re nobody,” Ciccone said.
Unfortunately some things still aren’t legal even if when they are announced at a big press conference and on television.
The Very Stupid Indictment
Three federal district judges, Florence Marie Cooper, Otis Wright and David Carter have all ruled that the government cannot seize the marks that advertise membership in the Mongols but “Justice,” which literally has all the time and money in the world, was not deterred.
Last February, an Assistant United States Attorney named Elizabeth Yang date-raped a grand jury into indicting “Mongol Nation, an unincorporated association” for racketeering and sought to seize the Mongols insignia yet again. The 44-page indictment was so embarrassingly half-assed that no federal judge would allow it to be filed. Almost five months later this forty-four page thing which cost at least $1 million to create still hasn’t been filed. But there is no guarantee that the big justice machine won’t just keep creating similar nuisance indictments against the Mongols and any other motorcycle club until eventually some prosecutor gets lucky with some judge.
The Mongols law suit, filed by a limited liability corporation named Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club, is intended to put an end to the government’s obsession with stealing the Mongols patch.
The Mongols suit asserts:
“Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club has an actual, well founded, and reasonable fear that based on the government’s current and prior actions the government will attempt to take ownership of the marks and thereby unconstitutionally infringe on the Club’s First Amendment rights. If the government seizes ownership of the marks then MNMC will have suffered irreparable harm by chilling, deterring and infringing his First Amendment rights. MNMC has no adequate remedy at law. An actual controversy has arisen and now exists between MNMC and Defendants (which is to say the Department of Justice) regarding Defendants’ ability to seize rights to the marks through RICO forfeiture.
“Wherefore, Plaintiff (the Mongols) respectfully requests the Court enter judgment against Defendants as follows: A. By declaring that the government has no interest in the marks; B. By declaring that the marks are not subject to RICO forfeiture; C. By declaring MNMC and the Club are the rightful owners of the marks; D. By granting costs and attorney’s fees pursuant…(to) applicable law.”
The Mongols are represented by a Burbank attorney named Bob Bernstein.