Many would snort and share methamphetamine or cocaine, steal motorcycles and “beat out” wayward members who didn’t adhere to club rules.
Membership was open to men over 21 – but they couldn’t be Black or gay. Some women were considered “club mommas” and were passed around for sex.
If someone was late to a motorcycle run or broke one of the club’s rules, they’d get their “eyes dotted” by another member.
The prosecution’s lead witness, Tiler Pribbernow, described what that meant: “You have to stand up, hands at your side and you’re going to get punched in your face. If your eye is not blackened, you’re going to get punched again. So hopefully, the first one is a good one.”
Pribbernow, a member of another club that paid dues to the Gypsy Jokers, and other associates painted a disturbing picture of the inner workings of the savage subculture operating in Portland and around the Northwest.
They described the rule by fear and retribution that prosecutors allege led to horrific acts of brutality, including the torture killing of a man in 2015.
The club earned a reputation as an outlaw gang that ran roughshod over other biker clubs and controlled who had the right to wear the three-piece Gypsy Joker patch on their vests.
Mark Dencklau, president of the Gypsy Joker Portland chapter, Gypsy Joker national president Kenneth Hause and member Chad Erickson are on trial in a downtown courtroom on federal charges of participating in a racketeering conspiracy.
Dencklau and Erickson also face charges of racketeering in aid of murder and kidnapping.
It’s the first racketeering case to go to trial in federal court in Oregon in more than 15 years.
The trial is in its fourth week and revolves around the June 30, 2015, killing of a former Gypsy Joker member who witnesses testified was targeted by Dencklau.
“This was Mark’s show,” Pribbernow said during 2½ days on the stand.
Pribbernow acknowledged he delivered the fatal blows to Robert “Bagger” Huggins Jr.’s head with a bat.
But he said he felt he had no other choice or would meet the same fate.
Prosecutor Leah Bolstad asked Pribbernow: “Why did you follow Mark’s orders to hit him?”
He responded: “I mean, I didn’t really think it was an option not to.”
Bolstad then asked: “If you didn’t, would you become a target?”
“Absolutely,” Pribbernow said.
How the club was formed
The motorcycle club apparently was born out of a 1956 motorcycle run in California called the Gypsy Tour, said Brandt Jensen, a one-time Gypsy Joker who joined in 2009.
At that run, a group of bikers “got drunk and just raised hell,” Jensen testified. The next year, the man planning the run warned that he wasn’t going to be “putting up with any of these Gypsy jokers,” Jensen said.