Mongols motorcycle club gets to keep prized patches, as federal judge rules against U.S. government’s first-of-its-kind effort

THUMPERRRR's picture

Members say loss of their patch would have been a death sentence for the outlaw motorcycle club.

SANTA ANA – A federal judge has rejected the U.S. government’s unprecedented efforts to gain control of the prized patches that adorn the vests worn by the notorious Mongols motorcycle club, ruling that prosecutors attempts to seize control of the outlaw organization’s trademarks are unconstitutional.

Motorcycle club members rally Saturday, March 29, 2014 at The House Lounge in Maywood.(Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)

The written ruling, released Thursday morning by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, marks a setback for federal prosecutors who two months ago persuaded a Santa Ana jury to find the Southern California-based club guilty of racketeering.

Attorneys for the Mongols described the ruling as a victory for all motorcycle clubs. At the center of the legal battle was control of the patches that depict the club’s name and an illustration of a Ghengis Khan-type character with a ponytailed motorcycle rider wearing sunglasses.

“The Mongols motorcycle club was able to defend the First Amendment for themselves and all motorcycle clubs,” said Stephen Stubbs, an attorney for the Mongols.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Carter’s ruling is unlikely to stand as the final word in a case that has drawn national attention. The first-of-its-kind effort to convict the Mongols organization, rather than specific members, of racketeering in order to strip members of their well-known insignia is almost certain to make its way before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Carter upheld the racketeering conviction and tentatively agreed that the government can keep seized guns and ammunition from the Mongols. But he ruled that efforts to take control of the Mongols’ insignia and patches violates the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protection and the Eight Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Not everything repugnant is unconstitutional,” Carter said. “And what does the government plan to do with the tattoos of the (Mongols’ insignia and patch) on members’ backs, arms and other body parts? … That certain individual members fo the Mongol Nation displayed the symbols while committing violent crimes or were rewarded with other patches for the commission of crimes does not justify the government’s attempts to bootstrap a conviction of the motorcycle club into censorship of uncharged members or supporters.”

Attorneys for the Mongols have described the patches that adorn members’ leather “cuts” as the organization’s “Holy Grail,” and they have said that the government taking control of them would mark a “death penalty” for the group.

“I’m happy that this is not a death sentence here,” said Attorney Joseph Yanny, who represented the Mongols in the racketeering trial. “But I don’t like the fact the club has been labeled a criminal organization.”

Prosecutors have argued that taking the Mongols’ trademark is the only way to stop the “cycle of crime” committed by club members. The Mongols have countered that the crimes were committed by “bad apples” who are no longer involved in the club.

In December, jurors agreed that the Mongols organization engaged in drug trafficking, vicious assaults and murder. Much of the violence – which included attacks, some fatal, in bars and restaurants in Hollywood, Pasadena, Merced, La Mirada, Wilmington and Riverside – was tied to a decades-long rivalry between the Mongols and the Hells Angels motorcycle club.

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THUMPERRRR's picture

well alright then,,, outstanding...




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