By James “Hollywood” Macecari
Two trials involving motorcycle clubs are coming near the end. One Case involves the Kingsmen M/C and the other the Bandidos M/C. Both high-profile cases have seen former members line up to testify against those who were once fellow patch holders. Some of the charges against the defendants include murder and racketeering. These are some heavy duty charges. Charges if convicted will send those accused to prison the rest of their lives.
Going to trial in state court is one thing. A defendant has a 50/50 chance of beating the charges if they have a good attorney. Federal court, on the other hand, is a whole different story. The conviction rates when brought at the federal level is 97%. That’s right. A defendant only has a 3% shot at beating charges in a federal court, even when they have a good attorney.
Here’s the problem people face when brought into the federal system.Two fundamental things that people do not have, this even includes Bill Gates. Time and money. Both of which, the government has plenty of. The government also has an easy time squeezing people. The government also likes to kick up so much dust a jury will have a hard time seeing through all the smoke and mirrors.
Personally, If I was ever on a jury. I would automatically refuse to listen to any witness who cooperated with the government. Anything that would come out of their mouths would be for the benefit of themselves. You cannot discern any truth out of those kinds of people because they are in self-preservation mode. Trick one the government uses on a jury. Most that would serve on a jury are not street smart. They experience their lives on a altogether different standard as most bikers would. They are trained to believe in the system. If the government uses these types of people and they believe them. Subsequently the person serving on a jury thinks they must be telling the truth.
Another thing the government likes to do is take up a juries time. When the prosecution gets up to present its case, they make sure to take more time than what’s needed. They do this because the jury wants to go home. They have their own lives to live and are only there because of a civic duty they had to fulfill. By time they get the case all they want to do is, get it finished and go home. It’s a strategy the Feds work off of. Facts of a case come in second to achieving the goal of a conviction.
This is the reason most people facing trial are told. “The Longer they deliberate the better.” In the case of Pike and Portillo. The jury has now had the case two days. This means they are seriously going over the evidence. The longer they go, the better it is for Pike and Portillo. So everyone keep their fingers crossed for a good outcome for them.
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By now, after three months of testimony and 60 witnesses, many of them longtime bikers, the stories of beatings, shootings and murder are well known to the jurors deciding the fate of three Kingsmen Motorcycle Club members.
One by one, those same stories, including the one at the center of the trial – the murders of Kingsmen Paul Maue and Daniel “DJ” Szymanski – were resurrected this week by prosecutors and defense lawyers eager to influence the jury one last time.
During closing statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi took jurors through evidence he believes proves fellow Kingsmen Andre Jenkins killed Maue and Szymanski at the direction of then-national president David Pirk.
A graphic photo of the crime scene, showing the two bikers dead in the front seat of a car at the North Tonawanda clubhouse, served as a backdrop for Tripi’s summation.
“These murders were an inside job,” he told the jury. “These murders sent a message – get in line.”
For the defense, the summations provided an opportunity to again attack the quality of the government’s case and suggest it relies too heavily on Kingsmen all too willing to lie on the witness stand.
Collectively, they challenged the core allegation against their clients, the claim that Pirk ordered the murders of Maue and Szymanski as a message to rivals within the club, and then directed Jenkins to carry it out.
“We don’t have the type of evidence that you can grab onto like an anchor,” said defense attorney William T.Easton.
Throughout the trial, Tripi and fellow prosecutors Brendan T. Cullinane and Marianne Shelvey relied on witnesses and phone records in an effort to prove Pirk conspired with Jenkins and former regional president Timothy Enix to plan and carry out the September 2014 murders.
Tripi, in his summation, referred to Jenkins as Pirk’s puppet, a fellow Kingsmen eager to do his bidding in an effort to rise through the Kingsmen ranks.
“He didn’t need to be there,” Tripi said of Pirk’s absence from the murder scene. “Pirk’s weapon that day? Defendant Jenkins.”
From the start of the trial in January, prosecutors portrayed the Kingsmen as a “one-percent” club, an organization similar to the Outlaws or Pagans in its willingness to engage in violence or other criminal activity.
They told the jury that the murders of Maue and Szymanski were simply an extension of that culture of criminality. Jenkins is already serving life without parole because of a separate state court conviction tied to the double murder.
“They killed people,” Tripi said at one point. “They sold drugs. They hurt people. That’s what a one-percent club does.”
Over the course of three months, the government called witnesses who testified that Jenkins was seen leaving the North Tonawanda clubhouse on a Harley just moments after the killings and was later seen with blood on his pants.
Others took the stand to recall admissions they claim Pirk and Jenkins made before and after the killings, and how the murder weapon, a 9 mm gun allegedly discarded by Jenkins as he fled south to Olean, was found during a massive police search along Route 219.
“The government’s case is based on lies told by liars,” said defense lawyer Barry N. Covert
To make his point, Covert, who is working with lawyer Michael S. Deal, referred frequently to Filip Caruso, a former Kingsmen who testified for several days and will go on trial later this year.
“He said it twice, ‘sometimes you have to lie,’ ” Covert said of Caruso, a six-time felon. “He has no motivation to be truthful. He’s trying to save himself.”
Over and over, the defense challenged the government’s claims of a conspiracy and suggested at one point that the “wafer-thin” theory relied too heavily on the testimony of bikers eager to curry favor with prosecutors.
“They have no qualms about taking an oath to tell the truth and then lying,” said Easton, who with lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buth, represents Pirk. “And just as they did before, they are doing it again.”
Unlike Pirk and Jenkins, co-defendant Enix offered a far different defense, suggesting he was unaware of any murder plot. He also testified that his opinion about Jenkins’ innocence changed at some point.
To hear defense lawyer Terrence M. Connors talk, only six of the 60 witnesses who testified during the trial mentioned Enix by name, which is why he didn’t ask a question during the entire first month of the trial.
“It’s the longest I’ve sat in a courtroom without asking a question,” Connors, who is working with lawyer James W. Grable Jr., told the jury.
Tripi reminded the jury that not all of the witnesses were Kingsmen looking for leniency, and pointed to a young woman who was with Jenkins the night of the murders and claims she saw him throw away the murder weapon as they were riding south along Route 219.
She also claims Jenkins had blood on his pants that night and later asked a fellow Kingsmen in Olean to burn the clothes.
“What on earth did she have to gain by going through what she went through?” Tripi said.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford resumes Wednesday.
Jury in Bandidos racketeering trial to deliberate for second day
A federal jury continues deliberating Wednesday whether the top two former leaders of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club directed the club’s alleged racketeering conspiracy that involved drug dealing, extortion, robbery, assaults and murder.
Jurors began deliberating Tuesday morning in the nearly three-month trial of former Bandidos national president Jeffrey Fay Pike, 62, of Conroe, and ex-vice president John Xavier Portillo, 58, of San Antonio.
The pair is 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 ex-leaders, who were arrested in January 2016, deny the club is a criminal enterprise and that they were crime bosses. They could face up to life in prison if convicted.