Mongols motorcycle club member wins $1,001 in lawsuit against state agency

Justin DeLoretto is both a Mongols motorcycle club member and a recent recipient of a master’s degree in social work from George Fox University in Newberg.

And he’s now claiming victory in a lawsuit that he filed in March against the Oregon Youth Authority, the state agency that he says fired him from an unpaid internship last summer after police complained about his association with the Mongols, which federal officials regard as an outlaw biker gang.

 

DeLoretto, 35, has agreed to settle his federal suit against the state’s juvenile corrections agency for a $1,001 payment plus attorney fees. Court records list DeLoretto as the prevailing party in the case.

“While the state may take a different position I think it’s fair to interpret it as validation of the claims made in the case,” DeLoretto’s attorney, Michael D. Myers of Seattle, said in an emailed response to questions about the settlement.

Myers said DeLoretto’s case “was about the principle rather than the money.”

Youth authority spokesman Benjamin Chambers referred questions about the $1,001 deal to the state Department of Justice. DOJ spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said in an emailed response to a request for comment that state officials “are pleased this case settled to avoid further litigation costs.”

DeLoretto made headlines in 2008 after he was jailed on allegations that he and two cohorts had tried to run a Eugene police officer and a federal agent off Interstate 5.

 

He returned to college shortly after a Lane County jury found him guilty of misdemeanor crimes, and was working last summer toward a master’s degree at George Fox when he landed an internship with the youth authority in Woodburn.

His time with the state agency, however, was short-lived.

DeLoretto began training and orientation on Aug. 8, but one day later was told by an OYA official that the agency had terminated the internship because he is a Mongols member, according to the lawsuit.

Top OYA officials told DeLoretto that they had received complaints from five law enforcement officials about DeLoretto being present at youth authority facilities while still associating with the motorcycle club, the suit says.

DeLoretto’s lawsuit asserted the youth authority wrongfully terminated him in violation of his constitutional rights, including First Amendment rights to free speech, expression and association.

OYA acknowledged in a formal answer to the lawsuit that “multiple” police officers had complained about DeLoretto’s presence “given his continued and active participation in an outlaw motorcycle gang.” Those officers’ names are not included in court filings.

The youth authority also said in its response that all actions it had taken against DeLoretto “were at all times reasonable and based upon legitimate public service business necessity.”

According to the lawsuit, DeLoretto’s master’s program required that he complete an internship with a social services agency. After being dropped by OYA, DeLoretto went to work as an intern with the state Department of Human Service in Marion County.

In a brief statement issued by Myers, DeLoretto said he graduated April 29 and is no longer interning with DHS. He said that “working at OYA had been my career goal while earning my (master’s degree).”

DeLoretto, a longtime Marion County resident, appears to have remained crime-free in Oregon since his brush with the law in 2008. In that case, he was arrested after he and two other men used vehicles to surround an unmarked Ford Explorer occupied by a Eugene police detective and a federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent.

Evidence in DeLoretto’s trial in Lane County Circuit Court showed he had followed the investigators 90 miles along roads including I-5 after they went to his Turner home. The officers were investigating an assault that allegedly involved Mongols members.

DeLoretto maintained that he did not know the men he had followed were police. A jury convicted him of misdemeanor charges of menacing, reckless endangering and reckless driving, but acquitted him of eight felonies, some of which accused him of conspiring with fellow club members to try and run the officers off the road.

DeLoretto was released from the Lane County Jail about one week after the trial.

DeLoretto began taking classes at a community college in 2008 and later earned his bachelor’s degree from George Fox, where he enrolled in a master’s program in 2015.

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Jack Moran
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registerguard.com




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