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Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby)

Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby)

It would seem that AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, isn’t the only person making inexcusable blunders that goes far beyond foolish.

Huh?

Let me provide some context.  

You might recall how the AOL CEO whined last week  that two “distressed babies” had cost his company a million dollars each. That pronouncement was widely criticized, especially because it seemed Armstrong (who was paid over $12M last year) was trying to shift the baby care costs onto the Internet company’s employees. Armstrong cited it as a reason AOL had decided to change, but later reinstated, its 401(k) match.  One of the “distressed babies” mothers spoke out (HERE). 

And speaking about gaffes and foolishness… we now have the Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) taking credit for and stating that the TV show “basically saved Harley” to Susan Carpenter of The Hollywood Reporter.

"Sons" co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) Rides?

“Sons” co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby) Rides?

By any measure, “Sons” is a disturbingly violent TV show  that includes a theme of rape, torture, brutal assaults, and bath tubs full of human excrement.  It’s about a 1% motorcycle club — which creator Kurt Sutter readily admits has always traded in “blood and guts” – with “actors,” many of which don’t know how to ride a motorcycle – now proclaiming that he (Boone Junior) and his fellow cast members are the reason that Harley-Davidson recovered from the financial collapse and economic meltdown.

Only in the make believe world of Charming, California.

Let’s get real here. Saved Harley-Davidson?  That is ridiculous!  It’s more than just a bit of a stretch and goes far beyond foolish.  It’s almost as out of touch with reality as the “distressed babies” claim.

Hey Bobby, I’ve got news for you.  Get ready, because it’s an emotional gut punch. The faux outlaw motorcycle gang drama that you co-star and “ACT” in didn’t save Harley!

However, I do wonder how Harley-Davidson management reconciles profiting off violence  as they cozy up and work to be affiliated with an uber-violent TV show.  Basically a TV gang, most of whom are governed by violent criminals.  Sure it’s an imaginary world, but seems out of step.  And, Jennifer Hoyer, (Harley-Davidson Media Relations Manager) explains it well:  “Our relationship with SOA has been mostly beneficial from our side, as we have enjoyed getting many of the cast members all to be real riders — showing them the freedom that Harley-Davidson motorcycles bring to their lives.”

Real riders!  We got the point already. 

Note: To be fair, the Harley-Davidson Foundation does a significant amount of community outreach.  For example, working with the Sojourner Family Peace Center to break the cycle of family violence in Milwaukee, Disabled Vets, Big Brothers Big Sisters, MDA and YMCA to name just a few.

In the spirit of the SOA outlaw I copied the photos from FX Networks without permission.

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Pumpkin Festival

I previously blogged about Street Vibrations and the club-on-club shooting in Sparks, NV last month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino which left dead the HAMC San Jose Chapter President (Jeffrey Pettigrew).

We now have the first documented incident of how the HAMC and Vagos violence has provoked a response from law enforcement in Manteca, CA which is about 75 miles east of San Francisco.

It happened at a Pumpkin Festival in “the family city.”  Yes a Pumpkin Festival.  Two members of the Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry were asked to leave the street fair by the Manteca Police because they were wearing their motorcycle vest with ministry patches on the back. They were told it was due to the shooting in Sparks, NV.

Keep in mind that the Christian Motorcycle Ministry is a non-profit ministry.  Not a street gang, or are they really even a motorcycle club.   Their purpose is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the biker world, a section of society,  that many have chosen not to associate with. The ministry has been operating for 21 years without problems.

Isn’t profiling against the law?  The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen vs. California, 403 U.S.15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writings or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to have freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the Courts.

What’s next?  I suppose, motorcyclists will be asked to leave events because they are wearing a H.O.G. emblem on a vest or people wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or one from their favorite Sons of Anarchy television show. I find this whole situation discouraging.

Photo taken by author in Hood River.

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Graham Nash (of CSN&Y fame) wrote “Teach Your Children”, “Lady Of The Island” and “Right Between The Eyes” in ONE night.  He was on tour with the Hollies, was frustrated and sick of making pop music.  He wanted to write songs with meanings…and these three came out.

All we’ve got is time and I don’t want to waste yours.  But, you see Graham had a passion.  Maybe it’s a baby boomer thing.  Encouraged by their parents.  They were the first generation who could be something more.

Speaking of “Teach Your Children”… I rode down to Reno for the Street Vibration motorcycle rally.  The good news;  there were no deaths in the 84 crashes investigated by Nevada Highway Patrol.  There were 23 arrests made during the 5-day Street Vibration motorcycle rally with a total of 1,396 traffic enforcement stops.

The bad news; and one that all motorcycle enthusiasts should care about was the motorcycle club-on-club casino shooting at John Ascuaga’s Nugget which left one person dead (Jeffrey  “Jethro” Pettigrew, HAMC President (San Jose Chapter)) and two members of the Vagos MC (Leonard Ramirez & Diego Garcia) injured in the hospital.  I wasn’t there during the Friday night shooting because Randy Burke of Roadshow Productions really pulled out all the stops to make this year the best-of-the-best and I was in downtown Reno enjoying everything that Street Vibrations had to offer.  You see, last year was a rather dismal affair which I coined as “Street Frustrations” so, props to Randy… this year had all the markings to be a really great event.   Except for that little brazen and almost “drug cartel” style casino shooting.  Police reports indicate there were about 60 Vagos and a dozen HAMC on the casino video tapes.  It’s reminiscent of the Laughlin River Run melee of a few years ago between the HAMC and the Mongols MC.  There was one arrest of a HAMC member, Cesar Villagrana on a suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon charge. [Note: The incident in Nevada isn’t Villagrana’s first run-in with the law. Following a March 17 collision in Aptos, CA. – for which Villagrana was found to be at fault – he made Santa Cruz headlines when the California Highway Patrol discovered the Gilroy Hells Angel was carrying an unregistered Beretta handgun. The discovery of the weapon came after Villagrana collided his 2002 Harley Davidson with a Honda and Toyota on Soquel Drive near State Park Drive in Aptos, according to CHP Spokeswoman Sarah Jackson.  The Associated Press reports state Villagrana has been out of custody, and pleaded not guilty in May to charges of carrying a loaded gun not registered to him and being an active Hells Angels gang member. Source HERE]

Police Block Off Victorian Square

And I predict just like Laughlin, Street Vibrations will now forever be changed.  First will be the citizen calls to cancel the event.  But, capitalism will prevail and a change will occur under the broad brush of security and the need for an “abundance of caution” to tamp down or avoid any possibility of club violence.  Higher tax payer costs associated with security.  Higher hotel fees for attendees to cover the increased cost of security.  Higher vendor fees to cover security costs.  They city will implement a NO COLORS rule and it will go into effect.  Wrist bands to enter the hotel lobby.  Wrist bands and hotel keys to enter elevators.  Long waits to exit the hotel parking garages due to security validation of rider/owner to motorcycle.  Random road blocks and searches.  SWAT, Counterterrorism Unit and Gang Enforcement Teams will have a presence reminiscent of a military-dictator bent on keeping power.  You watch. It will be costly to the average rider.

Vendor Booths at Carson City H-D

Club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to an increase in the number of individuals who are willing to carry and fire guns indiscriminately around a public casino are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with breakfast plans and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?  And where was the law enforcement intelligence?  And isn’t the casino security somewhat at fault?  Didn’t they get a clue when a dozen HAMC arrived at the Vagos base-camp that a fight might break out?

And then there are the financial ramifications.  This year in Reno, Virginia Street had about 55 vendors which was limited by the Reno City recreation officials for security reasons.  The majority, about 120 vendors were in Sparks.  And as you can image the vendors spend a lot of money for hotels, permits, food and gas to set up for Street Vibrations.  The biggest day of sales are typically Saturday, however, after the previous night’s shooting the Sparks mayor declared a state of emergency (to get and receive additional police enforcement resources as well as enforce a curfew) and then after a retaliation shooting Saturday morning of a Vagos MC member (Shane Smith) who was walking on Victorian Avenue they made the decision to closed down the event, including all vendor booths in Victorian Square.  What was surely a difficult business decision in light of the economic circumstances, but none the less many riders thought was good one considering the real or perceived retaliation rumors swirling around the area.

LEO Presence Post HAMC/VAGOS Shooting

It’s not clear if Street Vibrations can survive.  For Roadshow Inc., the event production company, it has to be the most important weekend/event of the year.  In fact, I’m not sure how or if Reno can ever shake off all the tragedies and grief it’s endured recently.  It was just about a week ago when 11 people were killed at the Reno Air Races and about two weeks before that there were 5 people randomly shot at an IHOP in Carson City.  Add to those tragedies the Amtrak crash in June where 5 people were killed and it makes you wonder.

And before you start with the comments… I want to acknowledge that the acts of a couple motorcycle clubs do NOT represent a majority of the motorcycle enthusiasts that go to Street Vibrations every year.  I get it.

The frustration is that the incident murder (let’s call it what it was!) is another confirmation for an uninformed public that results in a “guilt by association” and one more piece of my freedom is likely to be taken away…

We need to teach the children to be something more!  My sincere condolences to Mr. Pettigrew’s family.

Reference: The Nugget shooting case number is 11-8996.

UPDATE: September 28, 2012 — Vagos MC attorney, Joe Yanny states in a phone interview that no Vagos member fired a gun.  He goes on to state that the “social club” has a zero tolerance policy of criminal activity.  Listen to the interview HERE and how the club is apologetic for the negative consequences.

UPDATE: October 7, 2011 — According to this report, or this video report, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, 53, of San Jose, CA., was taken into custody last week by police in San Fransisco. He was on the University of California SF campus.  Gonzalez was being held in San Fransisco until police from Sparks, Nevada, arrive on the scene to question him.  Police believe that Gonzalez, who is an allegedly a member of the Vagos gang, shot Pettigrew four times in the back. The evidence against Gonzalez came from surveillance photos taken of Gonzalez inside the casino, which matched photos the California Highway Patrol took of Reno-bound motorcycle gang members in the hours leading up to the casino shooting.

UPDATE: June 4, 2014 – As part of a plea deal to testify against fellow Vagos, Nevada Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick to seven years in prison on August 21, 2013.   Rudnick testified that the murder was ordered by Vagos Motorcycle Club President Pastor “Tata” Palafox in front of 200 witnesses and Gonzalez volunteered to murder Pettigrew at that meeting.  Vago Ernesto Manuel “Romeo” Gonzalez was reportedly the ex-president of Vagos Nicaragua, and was sentenced to life in prison on October 3, 2013 with the possibility of parole after 20-years.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of RGJ.com

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Harrah's - Laughlin, Nevada

It was like any typical early morning in the Nevada desert with gamblers enjoying the casino and all its entertainment glory.

Then gunshots broke out and a gang melee ensued. Bystanders started running, dodging around and falling to the floor, fearing for their life – cameras caught the activity as some pulled weapons to shoot, others getting shot, or stabbed and in some instances bystanders watched as wrenches were used to beat down individuals.  It was a terrifying ordeal as many feared for their life.

I’m talking about the Saturday, April 27, 2002, Laughlin River Run brawl with guns, knives and wrenches which left three motorcycle club members dead — two Hells Angels and one Mongol — and injured at least 12 others at Harrah’s Laughlin. I first blogged about this HERE with updates HERE and HERE.

The skirmish between Hells Angels and the competing Mongol biker club fuse was lit when Metro broke up a fight between the Hells Angels and Mongols at a T-shirt stand earlier in the day.  Metro police and club leaders initiated a meeting to defuse tensions between the groups, but the members walked out of the meeting. Three hours later members of the Mongols HAMC stormed Harrah’s, where the Hells Angels Mongols were staying, and the casino floor erupted.

More than 8-years later with five federal lawsuits and at least one California state lawsuit against Harrah’s Laughlin who argued (and won) in legal motions that the casino wasn’t liable for the criminal acts of the bikers… for the first time this week were found liable in the incident.  In addition, rather than wait for a jury to determine damages Harrah’s quickly reach a settlement and one of the terms of the negotiated settlement is that the amount would be kept confidential.

The seven clients seeking damages from Harrah’s Laughlin for injuries suffered during the motorcycle club battle are: Michael Bower, Robert Garcia, Noi Lewis, Kathy Fuller, Steven Fuller, Andrea Daniels and Dean Daniels.

I’m speculating here, but it’s a pretty safe bet that fear of motorcycle clubs will pay well for these seven individuals.

What about the motorcycle club members and their legal disposition, you ask?  You may recall that forty-two members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) were indicted on federal racketeering and firearms charges.  Charges against 36 Hells Angels were dismissed in 2006.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Frederick Donahue (34) was a fugitive for five years before surrendering in Las Vegas in July 2008.  He was the seventh Hells Angels member sentenced in the fatal Harrah’s casino shootout and is serving 30 months in federal prison.  Jorrg Maykopf of Germany remains the only fugitive in this case.

I can remember back in 2001 staying at the Pink Flamingo (now Aquarius) during the Laughlin River Run watching HAMC prospects do bagger wheelie’s in the valet parking area.  Not these days.  The Laughlin River Run has forever changed…

Photo courtesy of Harrah’s Laughlin

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About a week ago in Josephine county it was time for the 7th annual Grants Pass Toy Run.

In case you are unfamiliar with toy runs, they are about bikers of all persuasion getting together to help disadvantage children during a bad time in their life.  Or another way to say it is these are children who would have a minimal or no Christmas had it not been for the direct effort of a toy run event.  Most if not all of the toy runs are supported by ABATE members and ABATE of Oregon exists to promote the rights and interests of all motorcyclists, both patch holders and independents alike.

But, there is an unfortunate pattern developing in law enforcement in some parts of the country which was visible in Grants Pass, Oregon on October 3rd.

Officials stated that police and fire personnel would not to take part in a charity “toy run” because members of the Vagos MC were in attendance.  Specifically Deputy Chief Bill Landis told the Daily Courier that the city considers the Vagos MC to be a criminal organization and took what amounts to a “there goes the neighborhood a’tude.”

Motorcycle clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs.  The non-motorcycle riding public might conclude from the city’s police and fire personnel actions that any motorcyclist attending a toy run is possibly affiliated with a criminal enterprise.  It’s true that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has weighed in on the topic complaining of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by so-called “outlaw” clubs.  They’ve previously stated that the presence of these clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. The shootout’s between rival motorcycle clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive have not helped.  In fact, they have influenced authorities in some states to attempt a ban on certain clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at those events.  This in turn prompted litigation in Pennsylvania on the unfair exclusions.

Before you get the wrong idea… does giving presents to boys and girls make up for bad things that some of the motorcycle club members do?  No.  But, neither should we consider ALL cops bad because some of them instead of catching criminals ARE criminals?

I’ve participated in a number of toy runs and find this maneuvering and attempt to cast a guilt by association on what otherwise would be acts of kindness for kids very disappointing.

Previous posts about the Vagos MC in Grants Pass are HERE and “Operation Everywhere” HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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If you’re a numbers person there is plenty to analyze about the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Even more so if you’re somehow impacted by the largest death tally in over 10 years.  These tragedies will reverberate throughout the tri-state area for months, and will undoubtedly affect future events.  My sympathies go out to the friends and families.   Even the Cowboy State (WY) has lawmakers reviewing the lack of a helmet law and are considering revisions based on this year’s tally which reversed a downward trend in that state.

Unknown Wedding Couple at Broken Spoke Saloon

Whether you have interest in the amount of tax revenue, the number of weddings, the number of drug arrests, the number of Regional Health System emergency department visits or the amount of trash the rally produced, there are stat’s for everyone.

First off is the tax revenue; the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation stated that revenues at the 2010 Rally increased ($127,804) from last year. Sales and tourism taxes collected so far from temporary vendors totaled $989,911 in the northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and communities in Meade and Lawrence counties.  There were 1,207 vendors at the 2010 rally and the gross vendor sales totaled $13.6 MILLION in the Northern Hills, $1.7M more than last year. In the Southern Hills, which includes Pennington County and Rapid City, Custer, Hill City and Keystone, sales were $2.8 MILLION, up from last year’s $2.5M.  Another indicator of attendance came from the city of Sturgis public works director, Randy Nohava, who stated that the rally generated nearly 9-tons of trash per day!

But, there is one stat we won’t get and that is the exact number of law enforcement agents who worked the rally or the costs.  It’s double-top secret.  However, law enforcement is quick to point to the: 1,442 citations issued, including 209 arrests for driving under the influence; 46 felony drug arrests and 183 misdemeanor drug arrests as a result of their extensive presence.

And while I’m on the law enforcement topic, there is one statistic which was very odd. The arrival of a Blackhawk helicopter, courtesy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with their extensive support team. Supposedly the Blackhawk was there to provide additional surveillance of criminals and better mobility for ICE agents.  There has been NO word yet on how many illegal immigrants were apprehended at the 2010 rally.  It turns out that the Blackhawk support was never requested according to local law enforcement and in fact their arrival created almost as much controversy as the May 2010 incident where 3-Blackhawks from the Colorado National Guard descended over Wounded Knee and touch off a flurry of protests.

In terms of attendance, the methodology suggests that estimates are always inflated.  In fact, an article in the Rapid City Journal stated that 2009 numbers were rounded down to 477,000 and that the early estimate number for 2010 is 450,000.  The exact number doesn’t really matter as the bean counters really focus on the tax revenue data as a key indicator.

There were some other interesting capitalism mass-marketing stats.  Ford used the Rally to launch its new 2011 H-D “bling” filled F-150 truck and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “American Motorcycles” commemorative set of four stamps featuring classic motorcycles and a 1970’s era chopper.  And there are statistics for a good cause too; the 50-mile Legends Ride which raised $52,000, and was split by the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. And finally were the Hamsters MC, who helped raise more than $257,000 for therapies and services at the Rapid City Children’s Care Hospital for children who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment there.

Yep, the rally has lots of protestations and an industry trumpeting its success…

Statistics courtesy of Rapid City Journal.  Photos courtesy of Army/web.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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