Antioch: Hells Angel member acquitted of serious charges, won’t face prison

MARTINEZ — A West Contra Costa man was acquitted of several serious felony charges Monday, as well as gang enhancements related to the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.

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Jurors did convict Steven Navarro of misdemeanor gun possession and child endangerment, but the charges he was acquitted of — conspiracy, felony gun possession, and several gang enhancements — carried a lengthy prison term. The jury’s decision, a victory for the defense, means Navarro will face a minor jail sentence, according to the prosecution.

During trial, attorneys debated not only Navarro’s actions and motives, but the very nature of the Hells Angels as well. A gang expert described the group as a sophisticated criminal organization. The defense pushed back strongly against that notion, saying several times that the group is not a street gang.

Navarro’s defense attorney, Erick Guzman, conceded from the start of trial that his client was guilty of misdemeanor gun possession, but told jurors that prosecutors were out to get his client and the Hells Angels. He praised the jury’s verdict.

“I thought from the beginning that this case was extremely overcharged, and demonstrated a bias against the Hells Angels,” Guzman said. “Really, there was no there there.”

Navarro was accused of conspiring with another man to attack a woman who had borrowed a car from him and never returned it. He was arrested in 2015 after a car chase through the streets of Antioch, where authorities say he followed the woman at a high rate of speed and brandished a gun at her. After the chase, a firearm registered to Navarro was found under a nearby parked car.

Prosecutor Chad Mahalich, noting that Navarro was found to be in possession of Hells Angels memorabilia, argued to jurors that Navarro had initiated the car chase to protect his status as a Hells Angel. He described the motorcycle club as a criminal organization with a knack for generating positive public relations.

“The Hells Angels are a very sophisticated criminal organization,” Mahalich said after the trial. “They put out a positive message, they have positive ties to the community that the general public gets to see… They are much more organized and they operate much more intelligently than your typical criminal organization. That makes them much harder to prosecute.”

Not so, said Guzman, who acknowledged the club “isn’t for everybody” but described its members as hardworking, patriotic family men.

 

“These are guys who work 40, 50, 60 hours a week, often in manual labor jobs,” Guzman said. “They work hard, they love their brothers and they don’t come close to definition of a street gang.”

The child endangerment charge stemmed from a gun authorities found in a garage in Navarro’s home. A young child sometimes stayed at the home, and prosecutors described the gun’s placement as an accident waiting to happen. Guzman pushed back against that allegation as well.

“That one I don’t think should have stuck,” he said. “The child was not there, and Mr. Navarro never would have let that kid be endangered.”

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Nate Gartrell
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eastbaytimes.com




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