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Posts Tagged ‘Outlaws MC’

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.

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Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.

loud-american

Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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Gretchen Shappert

Gretchen Shappert

I’m sure that after working hundreds of drug, gang and murder cases in the court system which is a land littered with dead bodies, grieving families, and killers of every station and stripe it would be easy to debate if all the exposure to violence and threats makes you tough-as-nails or more vulnerable.

Such is the situation with Gretchen Shappert.  The top federal prosecutor and U.S. Attorney in Charlotte, NC has stepped down.  Not to take a work break from going after the Motorcycle “Clubs”, the MS-13s or Bloods, but to join the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.  Shappert is going to work for the Obama administration’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys where she will coordinate gang and violent crime prosecutions across the country.  And from this previous gang threat level post it looks like she will be most busy!  Recently Shappert said:

“People who kill once will kill again.  People who shoot once will shoot again, and people who start doing robberies don’t stop unless you stop them.”

Shappert’s name surfaced in the ongoing Washington scandal involving the firing of eight U.S. attorneys across the country.  She was also involved in prosecuting Sam Currin a top figure in North Carolina Republican circles.

However, one of her most high-profile cases involved the Outlaws Motorcycle ‘gang’ where 21 members were convicted in “Operation Speedball” – an investigation into organized crime, racketeering and distribution of meth.  Shappert has prosecuted more drug and violent gang cases than any other federal prosecutor in the country and will now bring that expertise to the executive office. 

Photo courtesy WCNC.

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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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