Source: San Antonio Express
The former national vice president of the Bandidos Motorycle Club decided not to testify Tuesday in his own defense, drawing the nearly three-month racketeering trial for him and the group’s ex-top leader closer to an end.
Before resting his case, Robbie Ward and Mark Stevens, lawyers for ex-VP John Xavier Portillo, called five character witnesses on their client’s behalf to support their claim that he is a hard working family man.
Portillo’s co-defendant, former national Bandidos President Jeffrey Fay Pike, rested his case Monday after a number of defense witnesses that included Pike testified for three days.
The two are named in a 13-count federal indictment accusing them of leading the Bandidos’ criminal enterprise by ordering, authorizing or sanctioning killings, beatings or intimidation of rivals or wayward Bandidos and drug-dealing.
The pair deny the club is a criminal enterprise and that they were crime bosses. They could face up to life in prison if convicted.
For much of the trial, most of the direct evidence has been on Portillo, who was captured by wiretaps or informant’s body recordings making statements that prosecutors say back up their claims that he ordered attacks or passed down Pike’s orders.
In turn, prosecutors called as a rebuttal witness U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Chad Lloyd.
Pike testified last week that he could not have issued any orders or authorized criminal activity in one relevant time frame because he was suffering from medical issues between fall 2014 and fall 2015, and he took medical leave during much of that period.
But Lloyd said a May 21, 2015, recording of an intercepted phone call between Portillo and Justin Forster, who was a national sergeant-at-arms, showed Portillo took over that month from Pike while he recovered from his medical issues.
In the call, played for jurors, Forster said he told other Bandidos that Portillo had taken “the wheel” temporarily while Pike healed. Portillo was upset because Bandidos were starting rumors that Portillo had taken over on a more permanent basis.
Lloyd also explained international border crossings by former Bandidos national sergeant at arms Johnny “Downtown Johnny” Romo, a key government witness.
Romo testified in March during the trial that Pike had him go to Cancun or Central America at least three times to discipline other members, and he also planned an assault on the national president of the Bandidos’ chapter in Australia for being disrespectful to Pike.
Romo said they went to Cancun to put a deposit for an international meeting where they could conduct the beating, but it never materialized. The chapters from Europe and Australia refused to meet, Romo testified.
Prosecutor Eric Fuchs showed jurors U.S. Customs records showing Romo’s travels to Cancun and Nicaragua, which Lloyd said supports Romo’s testimony that he traveled there.
But Pike’s lead lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, pointed Lloyd to an earlier recorded call, in March 2015 in which Portillo tells other Bandidos, “I am the boss until Jeff …” That recorded call, DeGuerin argues, shows Pike was on medical leave at least at that time.
After a lengthy back-and-forth in which Fuchs and Lloyd disagreed with DeGuerin, Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra said the phone call doesn’t say anthing about medical leave, but left it to jurors to decide.
Lloyd’s time on the stand closed out testimony, and Ezra scheduled closing arguments for Monday.
Portillo’s witnesses included San Antonio homebuilder Tony Rendon; Bandidos member and Harley Davidson motorcycle racer Rickey House of Humble; Portillo’s friend Marion J. “Skip” Viator; real estate broker and friend Gerald Lee Bennett; and Portillo’s neighbor, Harry V. Schneider.
They said Portillo worked hard installing air conditioning systems through his own company for more than 30 years, that he appeared to be law-abiding, and that he is a good person , neighbor and an important part of House’s motorcycle racing crew.
Pike did not watch Tuesday’s proceedings. The judge excused him from the trial because Pike fell ill with what appeared to be the flu, and Ezra did not want to risk exposing others.