Investigations, Proceedings And SOA

August 16, 2013

All Posts, News

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that FBI investigations are not court proceedings under the federal statute criminalizing obstruction of justice. The ruling has received far more attention than it might have if appeals court judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, one of the three judges to hear the case and the author of the ruling, had not begun his opinion with the words: “The facts of this case read like an episode of the fictional television drama Sons of Anarchy.”

O’Scannlain goes on to explain: “Sons of Anarchy is a television drama series that runs on the cable channel FX. It documents the legal and illegal activities of a fictional outlaw motorcycle club operating in a town in California’s Central Valley. In the show, the club’s headquarters are located in a clubhouse adjacent to an auto mechanic shop.”

The prosecutorial fantasy that undercover investigations are really court proceedings is surprisingly widespread. The notion surfaced in May as part of a prosecution against members of the Black Pistons, Hoodlums, and Outlaws Motorcycle Clubs. Three men, Larry “Larry Mack” McDaniel, Sean King and Howard Brown were charged with obstructing a criminal investigation after the men allegedly kicked an FBI informer out of one of the clubs. The charge is based on the theory that an undercover investigation is a court proceeding. Presumably, the charges against those three men will now be dropped.

Road Dog Cycles Case

The case that led to the Ninth Circuit ruling was an FBI investigation of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Believing that the Angels intended to establish a chapter in Modesto, California, an FBI puppet task force called the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, or CVGIT, began investigating alleged associates of the club in and around Modesto. Those alleged associates included Robert Holloway and his son Brent who together owned the Road Dog Cycle Shop.

Task force agents alleged the Holloways were dealing in stolen motorcycles and motorcycle parts and that some individuals associated with law enforcement were leaking information to the Holloways. To catch the leakers, CVGIT circulated a contrived law enforcement bulletin about an annual party at Road Dog Cycles and used phone taps to see who warned the Holloways.

Ermoian, Johnson And Swanson

Three men, Gary L. Ermoian, Stephen J. Johnson and a deputy sheriff named David A. Swanson took the bait and warned the Holloways they were being investigated. The three men and nine others were indicted for racketeering in May, 2009. The indictment claimed that Ermoian, Johnson and Swanson had conspired to “corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, to wit, a law enforcement investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation” Their cases were severed from the other Road Dog Cycles defendants and they were tried separately. Swanson was found not guilty at trial but Ermoian and Johnson were convicted.

The district court judge who heard their case ruled that an FBI investigation is an official proceeding. This week, the appeals court told him he was wrong.



13 Responses to “Investigations, Proceedings And SOA”

  1. Big Bry Says:

    It is just nuts to me that in a judge’s opinion that there is such clear bias (at worst) or misinformation (at best). I would think that they would be a little more careful in how they write their opinions, rather than show blatant disregard for clubs generally. If a member of the local Lions or Chamber of Commerce was indicted, they wouldn’t mention it at all or refer to it as a gang.

    Big Bry

  2. Dirty Dingus McGee Says:

    Rebel sez “Presumably, the charges against those three men will now be dropped.”

    If that were to happen, I would fall over from the shock. I’m betting the feds are gonna keep on keeping on, figuring that a higher court will rule in their favor.

    Odd how it’s ok for them to run off snitches, but when someone else does the same it’s a criminal act.

  3. Rahlow Says:

    @Big Bry,
    You ever here of that happening it’ll damn sure be big news…just sayin.

  4. Big Bry Says:

    I just looked at the actual opinion, while the judge got to the right decision, I was annoyed by the constant reference to the HA’s as a “gang” in the opinion. If the judge can’t even be neutral from the start and automatically characterizes a club as a “gang”, how can anyone get a fair hearing that is associated with a club?

    Big Bry

  5. FBomb Says:

    So-called “law enforcement” today involves violating people’s rights so they can create a crime and then solve it. Doesn’t matter if they have to wipe their ass on the Constitution, the ends justify the means. What kills me is they spend our hard-earned tax dollars literally trumping up fake charges against the MCs to get them off the street, yet the REAL criminal enterprises like MS-13 get a free pass. The feds and cops are all a fucking joke.

  6. chromedome Says:

    Definitly good news to hear…this is far from over but can you imagine how fucked things could get if this was allowed to continue? The fact that the fedheads tried this bogus ass move is quite revealing of their direction and intentions. A major chess move just got blocked but i doubt it is the last we hear of this bullshit. Hope the BP’s and OL’s get through this with godspeed.


  7. Whitepride Says:

    I think I was born 20 years too late. This country is fucked up beyond repair. Stay White

  8. Stevo Says:

    Lord forbid anyone would be so stupid as to ask someone to take their phone on a journey while they set fire to their own house….

  9. Meh Says:

    As usual, citizens won’t notice that this ruling affects everyone.

    Consider if “obstructing” government surveillance became widely prosecuted. It would make it even tougher on people like Snowden who expose parts of the surveillance state.

    Don’t use phones or any computer for anything you don’t want broadcast to the world. The price of “convenience” can be high.

    All snail mail is photographed. Just the outside, but that’s plenty. Don’t forget that.

    Also remember that phone position can be tracked. Use cheap flip phones and remove the battery if that is a concern. Pictures can contain date/time/location data. That can be scrubbed, but not taking pics in the first place is wiser. If you think your phone IS being tracked, you could arrange for it to wander around without you. All perfectly legal, or at least legal this week….

    Don’t forget to constantly REMIND everyone else that there is no electronic or mail security. None, zip, squat, nada, zilch, zero, nil, fuck all, ain’t happenin’, not obtainable.

  10. rollinnorth Says:

    The ruling doesn’t undo the havoc wreaked upon the lives of those investigated and indicted, and for some, convicted, by this out-of-control government.


  11. Budweiser Says:

    YYZ Skinhead- Can’t really blame FX for some cheesy fan made video.

  12. YYZ Skinhead Says:

    ^ the video. I never thought an old school AC/DC song about the I-110 could be made to sound corny, but FX has managed to accomplished formidable feat.

    YYZ Skinhead

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