Hot off the Press From The Buffalo Press
Within the close-knit world of the Kingsmen, there were always suspicions that Andre Jenkins didn’t act alone when he killed two fellow Kingsmen in a parking lot outside the North Tonawanda clubhouse.
And then came the confrontation, just a day after the killings, between Jenkins and several angry, gun-toting Kingsmen ready to take revenge, and the unexpected intervention of then national president David Pirk.
Pirk, the Lockport native who rose to power in the Kingsmen five years ago, told the group to stand down and let Jenkins go.
On Friday, a federal court jury found the 67-year-old Pirk guilty of conspiring with Jenkins, 39, and others to kill Kingsmen Paul Maue and Daniel “DJ” Szymanski on that September morning in 2014.
The jury also found Jenkins guilty. He is already serving life without parole because of a Niagara County Court conviction for the murders, but he and Pirk face mandatory federal sentences of life without parole for the murders because the jury found they were part of a racketeering conspiracy.
Timothy Enix, 58, a former Florida-Tennessee regional president, also was found guilty of being part of a racketeering conspiracy, and faces a potential sentence of 30 to 50 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford scheduled sentencing Sept. 25 for all three Kingsmen.
“With this verdict, the ringleaders of the Kingsmen motorcycle club have been exposed as the killers, drug dealers, misogynists and gun-toting thugs that they really are,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said.
“It was difficult to overcome guilt by association,” said Cheryl Meyers Buth, a co-counsel on Pirk’s legal team. “Three months of testimony about violence and drug dealing from ex-Kingsmen looking for plea deals was insurmountable. By the time Mr. Pirk took the stand, he wasn’t going to be able to impact the jury’s decision.”
The other defense lawyers also expressed disappointment.
“We respect the jury’s verdict, but respectfully disagree with the result,” said Barry N. Covert, Jenkins’ attorney. “Mr. Jenkins plans to appeal.”
“We are disappointed and continue to believe that Tim Enix is not guilty, and we will be fighting to exonerate him,” said co-counsel James W. Grable Jr.
From the start of the trial, a three-month proceeding with 60 witnesses, many of them Kingsmen, federal prosecutors argued that it was Pirk who orchestrated the murders.
Although Jenkins already was convicted and sentenced to life without parole in Niagara County, Kennedy and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi said it was crucial to their case to try Jenkins on federal charges.
“He still traveled from Florida to Tennessee to New York to kill two people,” Tripi said. “He was the weapon for David Pirk.”
Pirk, they told the jury, wanted the murders to serve as a message to rivals within the club. They also said Pirk, who was elected in 2013 after a bitter campaign, was promoting an effort to turn the club into a criminal organization, or “one-percent” club.
Over the course of the trial, the government called witnesses who put Jenkins at the murder scene – one Kingsmen said he saw him leave the North Tonawanda clubhouse just moments after the killings – and later in a nearby bar with blood on his pants.
A woman who was with Jenkins before and after the killings said she saw him throw a gun to the side of the road as they rode south on Route 219 to Olean. A massive police search eventually located the gun.
Over and over again, prosecutors called witnesses who testified about the rivalry within the Kingsmen, an internal feud that almost turned fatal during a confrontation at the South Buffalo clubhouse a month before the murders.
Angry over the promotion of another Kingsmen Motorcycle Club member, Filip Caruso came to clubhouse armed with a Kel-Tec rifle hidden in his pants and with Maue and Szymanski watching his back.
The three of them confronted Pirk and Enix and, although the incident ended peacefully, Caruso testified that the consequences became clear the next day when he met with Pirk in Lockport.
He said Pirk was convinced Maue, who had come armed with a small baseball bat, was behind the South Buffalo incident. At one point, he gestured with his hand to indicate what Pirk planned to do.
“He put his fingers like this,” Caruso, his hand in the shape of a gun, told the jury.
And what did you take that to mean, Tripi asked.
“That he was going to kill him,” Caruso answered.
Pirk’s defense lawyer called Caruso’s story “insane” and countered by reminding him of the numerous lies he previously told a grand jury.
“Sometimes you have to lie,” Caruso would later admit.
Throughout the trial, the defense suggested Caruso was the one who killed Maue and Szymanski and that his testimony was simply an effort to deflect attention away from him.
Caruso, who was charged with Pirk and Jenkins, will go on trial later this year.
Over and over, the defense challenged the government’s claims of a conspiracy and repeatedly suggested its 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 Pirk’s co-counsel, William T. Easton. “And just as they did before, they are doing it again.”
Unlike Pirk and Jenkins, Enix offered a far different defense, suggesting he was in Florida, far away from the violence in New York, and completely unaware of any murder plot.
In one of the trial’s most dramatic moments, Enix took the witness stand and testified that his opinion about Jenkins’ innocence changed at some point. He declined to say what changed his mind.
The jury, which began deliberations Wednesday afternoon, convicted Jenkins on all nine counts he faced. Pirk was found guilty of all eight counts against him, and Enix was convicted on all four counts he faced.
Pirk and Jenkins were convicted of murder and gun possession in furtherance of the racketeering conspiracy, and of using the South Buffalo clubhouse for drug dealing as part of that conspiracy. Jenkins also picked up an extra weapons charge for having a firearm while being a convicted felon, stemming from convictions in South Dakota in 1998 and 2010