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Posts Tagged ‘Hells Angels’

Laughlin - Harrah's Casino

Laughlin - Harrah's Casino

In about 40 days the 2009 Laughlin River Run (Laughlin, NV) Motorcycle Rally is set to kickoff.  The specific dates are April 22-26, 2009.  With 10 casinos, top entertainment and riding attractions from Red Rocks, Route 66, Hoover Dam, Colorado River and the Grand Canyon it’s one of the top Nevada Biker Rallies.

Unfortunately and as if somehow timed perfectly to cast a shadow over the event we’re reminded of uglier days courtesy of the Las Vegas Review Journal who reported that the last of the Hells Angels who faced federal charges in the 2002 Laughlin River Run casino shootout was sentenced.  I blogged previously HERE and HERE on the motorcycle club clash which left three people dead at Harrah’s Casino.

In all 42 members of the HAMC were indicted on federal racketeering and firearms charges.  Judge James Mahan dismissed charges against 36 Hells Angels last year after learning the government did not turn over all of its evidence to the defense team.  Six other members of the motorcycle club already received prison terms.   Frederick Donahue (34) was a fugitive for five years before surrendering in Las Vegas in July 2008 and he was sentenced last week to 30 months in federal prison.  All plea deals were carefully worded to state that each biker acted as an enterprise made up of individuals, not members of the HAMC.  This effectively eliminated the HAMC as a criminal enterprise and all bikers avoided enhanced sentences.  Jorrg Maykopf of Germany remains the only fugitive.

Described as the worst shooting incident in the history of Nevada casinos it now has legal closure.

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81A metonym is a word that denotes one thing but refers to a related thing.  For example “Washington is a metonym for the U.S. Government.”  And the number 81 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet which is “H” and the first letter which is “A”:  HA = Hells Angels.

And speaking of the number 81, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp. has taken legal action against Fawn Myers (Visalia, CA.) and the Internet domain name registrar (GoDaddy.com) for trademark infringement.  The motorcycle club which is defined as a California nonprofit organization, states that Fawn Myers and GoDaddy.com are trafficking in domain names that infringe the club’s trademarks.  They put longtime outside counsel Fritz Clapp who is representing the club on the domain case.  For reference it is Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp. v. Myers, 1:09-cv-00118, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Fresno).

I’m just a little curious if Fawn was somehow new to the “internet thing” and received one of those confusing pop-up-ads — you know the type like the jack-in-a-box, in your face when surfing the net that describes (FLASHING) “great opportunity” for a business start-up — work from home — let your computer do all the work?!

It seems the “allegedly” infringing domain names were offered for auction on EBay, according to the complaint filed Feb. 11th in federal court in Fresno, CA.  The domain names offered for auction were ha-mc.com, All81.com, USA81.com, and 81mc.info.  The names were offered for sale on EBay beginning Feb. 7th.  Fawn stated on eBay that the names up for sale were “parked” with GoDaddy, and that she would donate “a majority of the profit” from the domain name sales to the society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Evidently Fawn doesn’t know how to do the “Google” and didn’t correlate the number 81 with Hells Angels when she bought the domain names.  Yet, the HA-MC.com name was offered for $8,181.81 and according to court papers all the eBay pages listing the domain names featured an illustration of a devil’s head which remarkably looked similar to the HAMC logo.  Go figure.

This looks like an open and shut case of cyber-squatting and the HAMC will likely recoup damages from the infringement.  But what happens if the motorcycle club decides to push legal limits and seek damages from very legitimate domain names like hamc.org which belongs to the Hebrew Academy of Morris County in New Jersey, or the name hamc.com which belongs to the Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, N.D.  Where does symbolic naming end on the internet?   From a math point of view the number “81” is the square of 9 and the fourth power of 3 and that like all powers of three 81 is a perfect totient number.  Will mathematic books now be required to provide accreditation to the symbolic number of the club?

How ironic would it be if Google used the same cyber laws on HAMC for a “likeness” infringement re; the Hells Angels search engine called Go81gle?

Photo courtesy Flickr

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gang_threatAs a biker, I know there is a difference between the true image of brothers in the wind and public perceptions.  This becomes acute when it’s time to work on serious issues like association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, noise mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies and deal with 1%’ers. 

Unfortunately, it seems when legislators deal with serious motorcycle issues they do so with little knowledge, act as  experts and spray paint so called fixes on everyone.  And at least one community is to blame — the media — for often failing to report unbiased information regarding motorcycle “clubs” or gangs.   More often than not the reporting tends to lean towards the sensational.  Bloggers are guilty too.

So, before I get a bunch of email stating how the term Motorcycle “gangs” indicates my bias or how they are misunderstood and are really a bunch of biker dads who love leather…let’s review the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment (PDF) which was recently released.  While much of the report is skewed toward “street gangs” (examples: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Ñeta, MS 13, Sureños 13 etc.,) there is a lot of information about outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) (examples: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, etc.) all working to control retail-level distribution of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.  The OMG designation is from the document and I’m using it to be consistent with the report.

The report conservatively estimates more than 1 MILLION gang members belong to more than 20,000 gangs.  There are between 280 and 520 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) that range in size from a single chapter to hundreds of chapters worldwide. Estimates indicate that more than 20,000 OMG members reside in the U.S.  If I did the math correct, OMG membership represent about 2% of the overall gang membership and about 3% of the total number of gangs.  Not an alarming number in of itself, but somehow attracts a disproportionate share of media publicity.  A few factoids from the report:

  1. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) pose a growing threat to law enforcement and public safety. Especially pronounced along the U.S.- Canada and U.S. – Mexico border. They frequently associate with criminal organizations to facilitate drug smuggling into the U.S.
  2. Criminal gangs are responsible for as much as 80% of ALL crime in many communities.
  3. National-level OMG criminal activity poses a serious national domestic threat. National level OMGs are a considerable concern to law enforcement because they are highly structured organizations with memberships ranging into the thousands, maintaining strong associations with transnational Drug Transport Organizations (DTOs) and other criminal organizations.
  4. In the U.S. 109 regional-level OMGs have been identified by gang investigators; most support one of the national-level OMGs. Several regional-level OMGs maintain independent associations with transnational DTOs and other criminal organizations.
  5. For the first time provides insight into the size and role of gangs in the military

The report goes on to highlight how the criminal organizations — like technology — seem to move fast, adopt and never stay the course with tactics.  They are most busy and seldom wait on the sidelines missing out on “revenue” or allow themselves to become marginalized.  They use cell phone voice/text messaging capabilities to conduct transactions and prearrange meetings.  They use multiple cell phones or prepaid phones which are frequently discarded after conducting operations.  Internet-based methods are being adopted and the use of social networking sites, encrypted e-mail, IP telephones, and Twitter message sites are common.  The use of social media sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to post well-produced, self-promoting music/videos of the “gang” lifestyle.  Pre-teens are down loading propaganda ring-tones and images which glorify gangs!  There has also been an increased effort by gang members to actively “spar” on internet message boards to protect their virtual spaces as well as use internet profiling techniques to recruit.

My grip after looking over the report is the fact it doesn’t attempt to address:

  1. Gang intelligence improvements that work and help reduce incidents.
  2. Gang suppression techniques which are working and the role of the community.
  3. Legal considerations on enforcement issues and use of gang-specific legislation.
  4. Cost of anti-gang resources and return on investment – no performance measurement of the organization?

So, do you think this report will help or hurt motorcycle enthusiasts?  Do you think it will accelerate legislation to address enhanced “affiliation” penalties in the northwest?   Should we wait for the Homeland Security advisory system to monitor and report on the ongoing threat levels of the nations criminal gangs?  If so it would be set at HIGH (Orange). 

Photo courtesy of National Gang Intelligence Center.

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Jay Dobyns

Jay Dobyns

It’s a popular saying and loosely defined as life is so unfair that a person is more likely to get into some sort of trouble than be rewarded if they attempt to do a good deed.

That might be what Jay Dobyns has on his mind these days.  Who is Dobyns?  I posted an article previously on his soon to be released tell all book “No Angel” which detailed his years working undercover as an ATF Special Agent who penetrated the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC).  Dobyns was the lead agent in Operation Black Biscuit which resulted in the gathering of 1,600 pieces of evidence, the seizure of 650 guns, more than 100 explosive items including grenades, napalm and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.  Fifty people were indicted as a result of the undercover sting.  In Arizona alone, the government assembled 800 hours of bugged conversations, 92,000 phone calls and 8,500 seized documents in an effort to prove that the HAMC is a criminal enterprise. Dobyns received a top cop award by the National Association of Police Organizations.  CNN has a video snippet with more information HERE and HERE.

The news is the Arizona Republic is now reporting that Dobyns is suing the ATF for failing to protect his family from various death threats. The dispute and subsequent filing of a $4.5M claim against the ATF seems to be supported by an Inspector General’s finding late last year that the ATF has a pattern of agent neglect and failed to provide security or fully investigate a series of threats against Dobyns and his family.  If these facts hold up it’s a sad testimony on the ATF as he put a lot on the line and deserves better!   On his own dime Dobyns has moved himself and family several times to elude people who’ve threatened to kill him or harm his family. He filed a claim with the ATF for the emotional stress and financial burden he’s endured.

It would be easy to speculate that when the press spotlight faded on “Biscuit” the ATF somehow didn’t have the motivation, funds or struggled to deal with the complexity of undercover work and how to best manage agents when they’re back in the LE world.  However in 2004 the agency received indefinite annual funding for the establishment of the Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) which was designed to reduce homicides and other firearm-related violent crimes in 20 cities. In 2006, the VCIT/ATF received $20M to identify, target and arrest the “worst-of-the-worst” offenders.  Is funding really an issue?

I’ll follow the Dobyns situation and provide updates as appropriate.

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Photo courtesy Jay Dobyns and AZ Republic.

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money_tankI like attending motorcycle rallies, but pretending everything is just wonderful in the “land-of-rally” is akin to an ostrich head in the sand. 

For decades municipalities have viewed motorcycle rallies as revenue generating opportunities.   They pass along all or much of the costs to the commercial entities as possible.  I’ve been to several rallies during the past year and the economic challenges have brought out fewer attendees and a lot more controversy.  New math has always confused me, but the demand any price and they will come day is over!

If you dissected expenses one could logically debate the single largest cost is law enforcement/security.  Be it extreme planning for any and all worst case scenario’s, DOJ command centers or simply aggressive personnel staffing to obtain overtime compensation….it’s become a nonsensical argument for the future.  There are fundamental economic principles at play here.   I don’t know if you noticed, but these events are being promoted more-and-more as a “shop till you drop” flea market rather than a motorcycle rally.

Under the public records request the Hollister Free Lance Press obtained the 2008 Hollister Motorcycle Rally costsSurprise!  The law enforcement expenses added up to a whopping $359,000 – an ever increasing number.  In the article, editor Kollin Kosmicki provides great comparisons with other major rallies:

  1. The City of Sturgis, which attracts about 700,000 visitors over 10 days, budgets approx $300,000 – per Sturgis Police Chief Jim Bush.
  2. Laconia Motorcycle Week has about 350,000 people over 10 days, and the city spends about $140,000 on law enforcement – per Police Chief Michael Moyer.
  3. Daytona Beach, which hosts two rallies bringing in a total of around 600,000 visitors, spent about $170,000 in total this year on security for the two events — according to a city hall spokeswoman.

Hollister spends much more for security on a 3-day event (attracts fewer than 93,000 visitors) compared to any other city!  To be fair and the list would be long, the State of California mandates the use of California officers, there is a larger street gang presence and I’m not trying to underscore the ongoing confrontation between the Hells Angels and Mongols.

But there are fundamental economic principles at play and how does this end…a city in bankruptcy?  I’m not trying to second guess the strategy of Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller, but there has to be a way to reduce the continually inflated cost of law enforcement at these events.  Biker rallies always attract a small percentage of individuals who are there to specifically commit crimes.

What happens when they hold a motorcycle rally and no one comes?

Photo courtesy Flickr

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couillard_dressRemember Julie Couillard, the woman who never received the Attire 101 memo and exposed a significant portion of her cleavage during the Canadian government swearing-in ceremony at Rideau House?  Her upper torso made all the newspapers. 

Previously I posted about Ms Couillard’s arrangement with Stéphane Sirois (Hells Angels) and how resolutely she brought down Maxime Bernier (Minister of Foreign Affairs) after he left secret government documents pertaining to Afghanistan in her apartment HERE.

Anyway the former “biker chick” moved on with her life.  Like many stiletto and Louis Vuitton wearing women before her she cashed in on the notoriety and published a tell-all memoir/book about her affair with the disgraced Mr. Bernier.  She secured a job at a Montreal radio station, and obtained invites to the so-called A-list parties to fill those long, cold nights.

julie_couillardAfter fading from the spotlight she has now decided to sell the provocative blue dress.  Yes, the same dress she was wearing as Maxim Bernier’s “date” (photo above) during the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony.  In the fashion industry this event has to be second only to the Lewinsky blue dress!  What is it about blue anyway?

I have no insight into motivation, but Ms Couillard’s new cause is a fashion show in the name of epilepsy.  It’s been reported that at the age of 12 Ms Couillard was diagnosed with epilepsy.  I’m no fashion expert, but it’s safe to assume the dress will sell for more than she paid for it and what great way to draw attention to herself (again), if that is her intention, and auctioning the dress off for a good cause.  Despite my opinion, what a stroke of genius it was donning that dress for her boyfriend’s swearing-in ceremony.  A brilliant marketing move on her part.  I can’t say that I blame her for exploiting her Outlaw Motorcycle “Club” relationships, her love affair with Bernier and others for fame and fortune. 

Is publicity a much too valuable commodity to be wasted on wannabes?

UPDATE: April 29, 2009 – Ms Couillard’s dress is auctioned for over $1000.

Photo courtesy Macleans.  A very detailed overview of Ms Couillard’s book is HERE.

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Dr. Michael Baden

Dr. Michael Baden

A wild west style gunfight involving a resident alien.  Then there was a Supreme court appeal, a HBO celebrity and the appointment of a judge pulled from retirement bliss…all to serve up justice on the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC). 

It took over 2 years of South Dakota tax dollars, hundreds of hours of legal resources and 3 days of jury deliberations to find two HAMC members not guilty on 5 counts of attempted murder in the shooting of Outlaws Motorcycle Club members near Sturgis, SD.

custer_parkChad Wilson, formerly of Lynnwood, WA (now living in San Diego) and John Midmore of Indiana (a HAMC prospect from a British Columbia chapter) were on trial for an August 2006 shootout in Custer State Park at Legion Lake Resort.  Several Outlaws MC members were injured in the shooting melee where 12 shell casings were retrieved.  Reports during the trial indicated;

“A quick restroom stop at a resort area to smoke a marijuana joint [medical?] resulted in five people receiving injuries and Danny Neace (Outlaws MC) being paralyzed from the waist down.”

With a rock-star defense budget, even “Hollywood’ers” got into the act.  The notorious Dr. Michael Baden of HBO’s “Autopsy“, also a Fox News contributor and chief forensic pathologist for the NY State Police testified.  The judge (Gene Paul Kean) had earlier separated the conspiracy charge from the main counts so, now it’s unclear if Wilson and Midmore will stand trial for that charge. 

And the twists continue with this case — turns out that Midmore has dual citizenship (Canada and Australia) and is a resident alien.  Wilson is a Canadian citizen and in the U.S. illegally.  Sure the federal government plans to deport him, but it’s unclear if he’ll return for any conspiracy trial. If interested there is post-verdict video from Keloland and more reactions were posted by the Argus Leader. Tracey Kelley (Custer County DA) and Mike Moore (Prosecutor) are trying to put their best spin on the [“respect the jury’s decision”] loss.  Congrats to David Kenner who was the HAMC Defense Attorney.  One could debate that he helped even the score a bit after the Iron Pigs weapons charges were dropped on a different case involving a HAMC shooting.

It’s not clear if a ‘more guns, less crime’ type of thinking will breed further acceptance of motorcycle club violence or if it’s just a sign of apathy from South Dakota juror’s?  I’m doing a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking here, but human behavior is influenced by three competing instincts: to act in a socially appropriate manner, to do what feels good in the moment, and to maximize one’s resources.  I wonder if this is a classic case of “broken windows” or part of a DA strategy to prevent future occurrences?  Unlikely we’ll know, but from my e-view it looks like a waste of tax dollars.

Photos courtesy of HBO website.

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