Trial day set for Hells Angels case

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LAKE COUNTY -- A battle for information in the case of three Hells Angels Motorcycle Club members who allegedly severely beat a member of a rival motorcycle club member concluded Friday afternoon after the judge instructed the prosecution what information it must turn over. A trial date was also scheduled.

The defense presented the motion for the information in July on behalf of defendants Timothy R. Bianchi, Nicholas F. Carrillo and Josh L. Johnson in July.

The motion was reviewed several times in court and both sides presented arguments for what the defense was entitled to receive from the prosecution, with the last two hearings approaching a compromise for a narrower and specified request from the prosecution.

Judge David W. Herrick instructed Deputy District Attorney Art Grothe to turn over factual, constructed or knowledge evidence in possession of the Lake County District Attorney's Office, the Lake County Sheriff's Office (LCSO), the Sonoma County Gang Task Force and its represented agencies, and likely expert witness Jorge Gil-Blanco that indicates members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club or the club itself showed a pattern of conflict with the Hells Angels and enticed, manufactured or provoked physical confrontation. In addition, he must turn over evidence that law enforcement instructed the Vagos to do so.

Grothe was instructed to turn over the information to the defense by April 25. He will have to gather any information that meets the criteria defined by Judged Herrick collected between Jan. 1, 2006 and Friday.

Herrick ruled on March 7 that the first motion filed was too broad, as Grothe had argued, and instructed the defense to file an amended version of the motion that included a better defined request. On March 21, Herrick said he found language in the amended proposal that raised concerns and agreed to address those problems before returning for ruling on Friday.

The request originally made by defense attorneys Michael Clough, Jai Gohel and Patrick Ciocca included:

Any and all evidence that the Vagos Motorcycle Club has been infiltrated by local, state and/or federal law enforcement agencies.

Any and all evidence that individual members of the Vagos have cooperated with efforts by local, state and/or law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations of members of the Hells Angels and/or other motorcycle clubs.

Any and all evidence that individual members of the Vagos have been directed, induced or encouraged by local, state and/or federal law enforcement agencies to provoke incidents involving the Hells Angels and/or other motorcycle clubs.

Any and all evidence that individual members of the Vagos have instigated/provoked conflicts with members of the Hells Angels and/or other motorcycle clubs.

Any and all evidence that local, state and/or federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case provided financial and/or other material benefits to members or associates of the Vagos.

And any and all evidence that local, state and/or federal law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case have provided or offered members or associates of the Vagos immunity, leniency or any other favorable treatment in criminal proceedings in exchange for cooperation in the investigation and/or prosecution of members of the Hells Angels and/or other motorcycle clubs.

The request was ultimately denied and ordered to be amended.

Clough previously said the defense suspects there was a connection between members of the Vagos and the LCSO. He further said that that connection may have led to members of the Vagos inciting or provoking a confrontation with the three defendants.

Following the Judge's decision on the motion, the court scheduled trial for Sept. 17. The two sides will meet Aug. 25 for a settlement conference and Sept. 12 for trial setting.

Bianchi, Carrillo and Johnson face charges that include assault with a deadly weapon, battery, fighting in a public place and a gang enhancement. They stem from an incident in June 2011 at the Konocti Vista Casino when the trio allegedly "severely beat," a member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club during a tattoo convention, according to the LCSO.

The prosecution alleges that the three men were acting as members of the Hells Angels when the alleged assault happened. The defense argues the alleged fight was an isolated incident and not part of club activity.

Ciocca, who represents Johnson, appeared in court alone standing in for Gohel and Clough. Bianchi, Carrillo and Johnson were excused from appearing in court.

All three defendants await trial out of custody.

Isaac Brambila is an associate editor for Lake County Publishing. Reach him at 263-5636 ext. 37 or at ibrambila@record-bee.com.

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