The next meeting for the Front Range Colorado COC Will be held;
November 18th, 2018 @ NOON
LOC: VFW 501, 4747 W Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80204
LOC: VFW 501, 4747 W Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80204
The MPP has repeatedly reported on the rising trend in Texas of arresting members of motorcycle clubs for possession of weapons, including members that have no criminal record and that possess a license to carry (LTC, or concealed carry permit). Prosecutions follow arrests, and on September 21st, 2018 a jury in El Paso convicted an individual with no criminal record solely for being a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club in possession of a legal weapon.
If this seems outrageous, your instincts are correct. The MPP, after conducting cursory research on 46.02, has identified precedent, Ex Parte Flores 483 SW 3d 632 (2015), that clearly articulates how law enforcement is currently misinterpreting and misapplying Texas statute in violation of the basic rules of evidence and the US Constitutional.
Law Enforcement and prosecutors should immediately cease and desist misapplying Texas statute. Applying Texas Penal Code 46.02 to members of clubs with no criminal records, and even LTC’s, would chill 1st Amendment Association and the doctrine of personal guilt, “a cornerstone of American Jurisprudence.”
Ex Parte Flores, decided by the Texas 14th Court of Appeals in November, 2015, completely discredits law enforcement’s current application of 46.02 to any member of a club labeled a criminal street gang by law enforcement, found to be in possession of a weapon.
The plain language of 46.02 requires that the defendant must be one of the three or more individuals continuously or regularly associating in the commission of criminal activities. To apply 46.02 to any member of the Bandidos, for example, relies on an incorrect construction of the statute that would be constitutionally arbitrary and overbroad.
Law enforcement and prosecutor’s “arguments that a defendant need not be involved in or even aware of the gang’s criminal activities rely on [an] incorrect construction of the statute. The term “member” in section 46.02(a-1)(2)(C) derives its content from the definition of “criminal street gang” contained in section 71.01(d). Read together, these provisions indicate that a gang “member” must be one of the three or more persons who continuously or regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.” (Ex Parte Flores at 16)
Ex Parte Flores explains that all evidence of criminal activity not directly connected to the defendant must be excluded under Rule 403. Moreover, 46.02 does NOT authorize law enforcement’s currently unfettered, arbitrary, and discriminatory application of 46.02 being applied to individuals for mere membership in what law enforcement labels a criminal street gang.
The task to identify whether an individual continuously or regularly associates in the commission of criminal activity is well within normal law enforcement duties during a traffic stop. No indication of a criminal record, no outstanding warrants, or the possession of a LTC are clear indications that an individual is not continuously or regularly associating in the commission of criminal activity.
Finally, applying 46.02 solely based on membership in a motorcycle club violates the 1st Amendment and the doctrine of personal guilt. There is “no evidence that by merely wearing [1%] “colors,” an individual is “involved in or associated with the alleged violent or criminal activity of other [1%] members. It is a fundamental principle that the government may not impose restrictions on an individual “merely because an individual belong[s] to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.” In fact, the Supreme Court has long “disapproved governmental action . . . denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen’s association with an unpopular organization.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 185-86 (1972).
To permit law enforcement to arrest, and prosecutors to charge, any person “who wears the insignia of the [1% club], without regard to or knowledge of that individual’s specific intent to engage in the alleged violent activities committed by other members, is antithetical to the basic principles enshrined in the First Amendment and repugnant to the fundamental doctrine of personal guilt that is a hallmark of American jurisprudence. See Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015)
The recent conviction of Bandido DT in El Paso was unjust and raises some serious questions. The requirement of personal guilt should have been explained to the jury. Why would every attorney involved not be aware of Ex Parte Flores? Why would evidence of crimes not directly connected to DT be entered into evidence considering Rule 403 is a basic rule of evidence?
The MPP has every hope that DT will be successful on appeal and that this recent trend will come to an end. Or at the very least, that those continuing to falsely arrest and maliciously prosecute individuals based on a misinterpretation and application of statute will be held responsible.
All law enforcement agents, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors should immediately cease and desist applying 46.02 to individuals solely based on membership in a motorcycle club that authorities label a criminal street gang. Probable cause for arrest under 46.02 requires that an individual not only express association, but also be directly involved in the continuous or ongoing criminal activity of the organization.
Absent other specific evidence, a clean criminal history check or a valid LTC are factors that can be established during a traffic stop that evaporate the probable cause necessary to establish that an individual is a member of a criminal street gang by statute, and hence subject to arrest and prosecution under Texas Penal Code Section 46.02 which prohibits possession of weapons by members of criminal street gangs.
There is simply no excuse for prosecutors in these jurisdictions. A basic understanding of the rules of evidence reveals that any criminal activity not directly connected to the defendant has no probative value, is unduly prejudicial, and should properly be excluded under Rule 403, specifically in 46.02 proceedings.
Arrests of motorcycle club members with no criminal records for illegal possession of weapons in El Paso, Ft. Worth, Houston and elsewhere in Texas, should NOT be happening. Proper training and understanding of Constitutional Principles and relevant case law would prevent such miscarriages of justice.
The post Authorities Misapplying Texas Law to Disarm Bikers appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
A jury in El Paso, Texas decided Friday that it is illegal for a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club to possess a weapon in the state. DT, a member of the BMC in El Paso, was arrested October 16th, 2017 on his way to work for Unlawful Carrying Of A Weapon. Although it was conceded by all sides that DT had no felony record and was not a convicted criminal, the prosecution argued, and the jury agreed, that merely being a member of the Bandidos was enough to consider an individual a gang member prohibited from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.
DT’s case is just one in a long list of similar incidents. The MPP believes that successful convictions such as DT’s further embolden law enforcement across Texas and other states to continue their campaign to disarm the Bandidos and other motorcycle clubs and their members based solely on association.
DT’s case represents only one case in a lower court. The legality of motorcycle club members in Texas possessing weapons will ultimately depend upon successful judicial opinions at the court of appeals level or higher, setting precedent against what the MPP believes is an unconstitutional application of Texas law.
The attempt to disarm individuals because they belong to an organization in which other members have committed crimes, regardless of personal guilt, is an extremely dangerous slippery slope that could ultimately impact many sectors of society far beyond motorcycle clubs.
DT was on his way to work last October when he was pulled over for a traffic infraction. When the El Paso officer asked whether he was carrying a weapon, he indicated he was legally transporting an unloaded firearm. DT does ranch work, and ranchers often carry firearms to defend against predators and snakes threatening livestock.
DT was informed that it was illegal for a member of the Bandidos to possess a weapon in the state of Texas because they were considered a criminal street gang. He was charged under Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.02, UNLAWFUL CARRYING WEAPONS. He paid a $1,500 bond and was released.
Until this incident, DT had no criminal record – other than a DUI a decade ago. He is a combat veteran, serving in the Army, 1st Calvary Division for 5&1/2 years, 2 of them in Iraq.
DT went to trial last Thursday, September 20th. The argument on both sides was fairly straightforward. He explained to the MPP, “The state is trying to just simply say me being a member of the Bandidos MC is enough to justify me being a gang member. My defense is saying they have to show me specifically [involved] in acts to prove me…a gang member.”
The next day, the jury deliberated and agreed with the prosecution. In this jury’s opinion, being a Bandido is enough to prohibit an individual from legally possessing a weapon in the state of Texas, even if the individual has no criminal record.
Independent of the personal impact on DT, his case has implications for others. His trial does not set precedent for others because it’s a lower court decision. If the case is appealed, however, the outcome of that trial would set precedent for others in the El Paso court’s jurisdiction.
But even if this trial doesn’t set precedent, this conviction is likely to embolden law enforcement to further embrace this tactic in El Paso and across the state of Texas. As reported directly to the MPP from victims of blatant and obvious mass profiling, the same day the jury in El Paso handed down a guilty verdict, members of another 1% club having a gathering at the Stockyards in Fort Worth were warned that it was illegal for members of motorcycle clubs to possess weapons in Texas even if those members held valid CWP’s.
Indeed, the Motorcycle Profiling Project has repeatedly reported on the rising trend in some states to revoke the Second Amendment rights of MC members, and how MC members are being arrested for unlawful carry without legitimate cause. The MPP has even issued a travel advisory warning all motorcycle club members of what the MPP believes is an unconstitutional application of Texas law.
This statute as it is being applied violates fundamental 1st Amendment liberties and the doctrine of personal guilt. To permit the government to impose restrictions on any person “who wears the insignia of [a motorcycle club], without regard to or knowledge of that individual’s specific intent to engage in the alleged violent activities committed by other members, is antithetical to the basic principles enshrined in the First Amendment and repugnant to the fundamental doctrine of personal guilt that is a hallmark of American jurisprudence.” see Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015)
But that is exactly what is happening in Texas. The idea that the government can impose a restriction such as prohibiting the right to posses a weapon in a shall issue state, based solely on association, is completely inconsistent with constitutional principles.
Properly applied, wouldn’t the state have to show that an individual specifically participated in the criminal acts referenced? This interpretation of Texas Penal Code Sec. 46.02 would both preserve the 1st Amendment right to associate and the doctrine of personal guilt.
If this trend continues in Texas, California, and New York, how long before it spreads to other states? If gang laws themselves are any indication, the tactic could spread coast- to-coast.
According to the National Motorcycle Profiling Survey 2017, 99%+ of MC members strongly support the 2nd Amendment and only 2% of the members of even 1% clubs have a felony record. How many individuals that currently have a legal right to posses weapons would knowingly sign away those rights to join a motorcycle club?
And the potential implications extend far beyond the MC community. Every American should pay attention and be extremely concerned. “In a very real way, the fate of motorcyclists will serve as a blue print for other groups in the future. Disarming bikers, even those associated that have no criminal records of any kind, is a strategy to cripple the rights base of one of the most visible and active grassroots social and political movements in America.“
If you’re in a motorcycle club this does not sound far-fetched because it’s happening now. If you’re not in a motorcycle club, do you know someone who is? That’d make you an associate. And even if you don’t associate with MC members, it’s important to understand that protecting the most subversive speech and associations is the highest constitutional priority on which all other expression and associational rights depend upon.
Justice Black explains in Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957):
“Doubtlessly, dictators have to stamp out causes and beliefs which they deem subversive to their evil regimes. But governmental suppression of causes and beliefs seems to me to be the very antithesis of what our Constitution stands for. The choice expressed in the First Amendment in favor of free expression was made against a turbulent background by men such as Jefferson, Madison, and Mason – men who believed that loyalty to the provisions of this Amendment was the best way to assure a long life for this new nation and its Government…. The First Amendment provides the only kind of security system that can preserve a free government – one that leaves the way wide open for people to favor, discuss, advocate, or incite causes and doctrines however obnoxious and antagonistic such views may be to the rest of us.”
The post Texas Jury Says Its Illegal for Any Bandido To Possess A Weapon appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
As reported by the MPP, the New Mexico Motorcyclists Rights Organization (NMMRO) sent a letter to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) on July 7th, requesting a meeting to discuss motorcycle profiling due to an increase in reported incidents. Despite the professionalism displayed by the NMMRO, these requests were ignored for over a month. But then these requests received media exposure, first through the MPP’s grassroots networking and then mainstream coverage. The pressure resulting from this exposure caused the BCSO to agree to a meeting with the NMMRO which resulted in an agreement by the Sheriff to seriously address incidents of motorcycle profiling.
Annette Torrez and Raymond Gallegos, chair and co-chair, along with the board of directors of the NMMRO, are examples of effective activists implementing proven methods for advancing motorcyclists rights. The NMMRO has taken the unique approach of attempting to dialogue with law enforcement related to the profiling phenomenon. And to get authorities to the table, the NMMRO is using a combination off grassroots and mainstream media pressure.
After drafting and sending the letter to the BCSO, Torrez contacted the MPP requesting coverage. On August 14th, 2018 the MPP published the NMMRO’s story on motorcycleprofilingproject.com in an attempt to provide exposure. With over 20,0000 followers, the story spread quickly. Two days later powerful mainstream media outlet KRQE Channel 13 also reported on the story and even called the BCSO inquiring about why no meeting had been scheduled. The BCSO quickly agreed to a meeting on August 22nd, and even guaranteed the Sheriff’s presence.
On August 22nd, the NMMRO Board met with representatives of the BCSO, including Sheriff Gonzales. The results were positive. The Sheriff agreed to increased education and awareness of motorcycle profiling stops in addition to agreeing to seriously address future stops. As reported on the NMMRO’s Facebook page:
“We are very pleased to let you know that we were finally able to meet with the Bernalillo County Sheriff, along with several members of his command staff. This meeting was very productive and we feel that our community concerns were heard and received well. We also received a personal commitment from Sheriff Gonzales, that any reports we bring to his office in regards to profiling and discrimination, will be seriously investigated and addressed. In meeting overtime, they shared a serious interest in supporting our efforts in addressing motorcycle safety awareness and rider education.”
Torrez further explained to the MPP:
“The captain in charge of traffic came in late due to a swat situation. Now he was receptive to our concerns and said we was going to educate his officers on unconstitutional stops.”
The combination of grassroots and mainstream exposure is a proven method for moving rights issues forward. Many times the biggest challenge is exposure. The MPP provides an outlet for grassroots exposure that has not previously existed for motorcyclists involved in the rights movement. And as the MPP grows, so does the ability to penetrate mainstream media sources.
Torrez comments on the MPP’s Facebook Page:
The whole purpose of a free press is to provide a source of accountability through public exposure and public pressure. Grassroots media has gained power through new technology and cannot be controlled like mainstream media sources can. And getting grassroots messaging reported in the mainstream provides a movement’s message maximum exposure without the traditional risk of not being able to control the language of the debate.
The post After Media Pressure Sheriff Agrees to Address Motorcycle Profiling appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
According to data collected by the New Mexico Motorcyclists Rights Organization (NMMRO), motorcyclists in New Mexico have been increasingly experiencing profiling stops at the hands of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. But instead of merely collecting data, the NMMRO recently confronted Sheriff Manuel Gonzales requesting that all department policies and procedures be reviewed, and that all deputies be properly trained and educated so that they understand that profiling and selective enforcement of the law are simply unacceptable.
Motorcycle profiling deprives individuals of basic constitutional guarantees and should therefore be a concern to all Americans. The 1st Amendment irrefutably protects the rights of association and expression and judicial precedent has specifically applied these rights in the context of motorcycle clubs, including clubs that law enforcement labels a gang. Being in a motorcycle club is not justification for a traffic stop. And even when a traffic pretext is provided in an attempt to justify the stop, the 14th Amendment prohibits selective enforcement of the law.
The Motorcycle Profiling Project (MPP) commends the NMMRO’s proactive grassroots efforts. The MPP joins the NMMRO in the request to the Bernalillo Sheriff’s Department to properly educate and train deputies to cease the common practice of motorcycle profiling. Furthermore, the MPP believes that the Bernalillo Sheriff’s department should confirm a commitment in a public statement condemning the practice.
Finally, please take the time to fill out the National Motorcycle Profiling Survey 2018 (http:// www.motorcycleprofilingproject.com/national-motorcycle-profling-survey/) and assist the MPP and motorcycle rights organizations nationwide in the effort to end motorcycle profiling and discrimination.
The post New Mexico Motorcyclists Confront Sheriff Over Motorcycle Profiling appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
The McMinnville Tennessee Police Department has been refusing to release any public information related to the death of 21-year-old motorcyclist Jay Alan Webster, probate member of the Silent Creed Motorcycle Club, killed on July 7th, 2018, after former Warren County Sheriff Kenneth Taylor failed to yield and hit Webster while driving his Toyota SUV. But after more than a week of stiff public record request denials, and less than 24 hours after public demands to release the information was published on motorcycleprofilingproject.com, the McMinnville Tennessee PD has finally released the accident report.
The release of public information is a small but important victory for motorcyclists in Tennessee because it demonstrates what a focused and unified grassroots motorcycle rights campaign can achieve. Yet important unanswered questions remain and the grassroots pressure must continue to be a voice for Jay Alan Webster.
The accident report indicates that the although there were no drugs or alcohol found at the scene, the former sheriff was administered a blood test to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol, but the results were still pending when the accident report was filed on July 8th, 2018, more than a month ago. Why have the results of Taylor’s blood test not been released? Do the results explain why an investigation into further charges is still on-going?
Rodney Mancini, a National Council of Clubs (NCOC) participant and Tennessee motorcyclist that originally requested the accident report from authorities, followed-up with a public records request for the results of Taylor’s initial blood test. The McMinnville PD rejected Mancini’s request because criminal charges were pending.
The McMinnville PD can arguably exempt these results until the investigation is complete, but the results could also be released through discretion. The public simply has a right to know if a former sheriff was under the influence when he killed a 21-year-old man.
The NCOC and the Motorcycle Profiling Project (MPP), organizations representing the legal and political interests of motorcycle clubs nationwide, urges the McMinnville PD to:
The grassroots pressure demanding justice for motorcycle clubs and their members through a unified voice must continue, so individuals negligently killing bikers are at least legally forbidden from driving a vehicle. The life and memory of Jay Alan Webster demands this at a minimum.
The post Report Released Under Pressure After Ex-Sheriff Kills TN Biker appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
On July 7th, 2018 a former county sheriff driving an SUV hit and killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist wearing club colors in McMinnville, Tennessee. This former sheriff was cited for failure to yield, however, no criminal charges have been filed. 1
Although the investigation continues with assistance from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and District Attorney’s office, information that is often released to the public during accident investigations is being withheld, such as whether drugs or alcohol are thought to be involved. The National Council of Clubs (NCOC) and the Motorcycle Profiling Project (MPP), organizations representing the legal and political interests of motorcycle clubs nationwide, are concerned that the former sheriff is being protected legally and politically by the thin blue line.
The public has a right to know whether drugs or alcohol are thought to be involved because that would inarguably constitute vehicular homicide under Tennessee law, as opposed to a devastating accident. And the public has a right to know about the short life of Jay Alan Webster, extinguished by a former sheriff currently being shielded by the laws protecting investigatory information.
As reported by NBC News Nashville on July 7th, a former Warren County Sheriff named Kenneth Taylor was cited for failure to yield at a downtown McMinnville, Tennessee intersection, killing 21-year-old motorcyclist Jay Alan Webster. Police say it’s too early in the investigation to determine whether or not charges will be filed against the former sheriff. What was not reported was that Jay Alan Webster was a probate member of the Silent Creed Motorcycle Club.
Unusually, no information is being released on whether drugs or alcohol were thought to be involved. A simple Google News search reveals that law enforcement in Tennessee often release to the public whether drugs or alcohol are thought to be involved very early on in an accident investigation. For example, a FOX 17 News Nashville Story from 2016, “Two Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Saturday in middle Tennessee” reported:
“Metro Police identify 27-year-old Joshua Cannon of South Nashville as the motorcyclist killed in an accident after 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night…They say he was driving at a high rate of speed before hitting the back of a car at a light, then slid and hit another car. Drugs or alcohol are not thought to be involved.” 2
Whether drugs or alcohol are a factor in an accident is information law enforcement often releases. So NCOC participant Rodney Mancini, in an attempt to obtain details of the accident, submitted a public records request and very quickly received a response.
Utilizing an investigation exemption to a public records request is common in many states, but in this case the McMinnville Police Department charged Taylor with failure to yield, which means that investigation is complete. Any accident reports written by officers present reflect the investigation that led to charging Taylor with failure to yield, which is now complete.
It is now August 7th, 2018, and the public still does not know the details. An accident is distinct from vehicular homicide, and the public still does not know whether vehicular homicide was committed by a former sheriff under the influence of drugs or alcohol in their community. The public has a right to know because criminal activity that results in death, in this case possibly committed by former law enforcement official, is irrefutably an on-going public news concern.
In addition to the public’s right to know, every motorcyclist in Tennessee has a right to know. Maybe most importantly, Jay Alan Webster’s family, brothers, and friends have a right to know whether their loved one was the victim of an accident or the victim of a crime. And we all have a right to know about the life that was prematurely taken from us all.
Though it would be impossible to do Jay Alan Webster’s life justice with just words alone, it is important to know who was taken.
Based on information provided to the NCOC by the Silent Creed MC, Jay was only 21-years-old when he was killed doing one of the things he loved- riding a motorcycle. Jay’s love of motorcycling eventually brought him to the Silent Creed MC, and at the time of his death he was a probate for the club.
Jay was also an accomplished welder, a skill he developed after he attempted to join the Marines at 18-years-old but was told a foot deformity would physically preclude him from serving. Welding was Jay’s full time employment until he recently returned to his Grandmother’s home to provide her full-time care. Jay’s charitable and empathetic nature was obvious through his actions. In addition to taking care of his grandmother, Jay participated in many charities including food drives for the homeless.
Remember, Jay was only 21. His life had barely begun, yet he was dedicated to the service of other people by choice. The NCOC believes that everyone has a right to know whether Jay Alan Webster was killed as the result of a former Sheriff driving his SUV under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Once these facts are revealed, then the discussion about proper justice can begin.
If former Sheriff Kenneth Taylor was under the influence of drugs or alcohol then he could be charged with Vehicular Homicide. Tennessee law is unambiguous. TN Code § 39-13-213 (2015) subdivision (a)(2) says “vehicular homicide is the reckless killing of another by the operation of an automobile, airplane, motorboat or other motor vehicle, as the proximate result of the driver’s alcohol or drug intoxication.”
Unfortunately, even if convicted the sentence ranges are very light and dependent on prior alcohol or drug related offenses. TN Code says, “Vehicular homicide under subdivision (a)(2) is a Class B felony.” “Any sentence imposed for a first violation of subdivision (a)(2) shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of forty-eight (48) consecutive hours of incarceration.” And with three or more prior alcohol-related convictions “any sentence imposed by the judge shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of one hundred fifty (150) consecutive days of incarceration.”
However, the former sheriff would be off the road for three to ten years and not killing any more motorcyclists, at least not with a legal license. Tennessee law requires the court to “prohibit a defendant convicted of vehicular homicide from driving a vehicle in this state for a period of time not less than three (3) years nor more than ten (10) years.”
The life of Jay Alan Webster was important and meaningful. Demanding justice for a human being of this quality is an honor and a responsibility.
The NCOC and the MPP publicly urge that the McMinnville Police Department:
The NCOC, with participation nationwide, is dedicated to demanding public information and justice for motorcycle club members across America, including Jay Alan Webster and all motorcycle club members throughout Tennessee.
1 WSMV TV, Nashville, Former Warren County Sheriff cited in fatal crash with motorcyclist, July 11, 2018, http://www.wsmv.com/story/38624716/former-warren-county-sheriff-cited-in-fatal- crash-with-motorcyclist
2 Anthony Glover, FOX 17 News Nashville, Two Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Saturday in middle Tennessee, March 6, 2016
The post Former Tennessee Sheriff Kills MC Member and Still Not Charged? appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
July 10, 2018
National Council of Clubs
The National Council of Clubs (NCOC), dedicated to protecting the legal and political interests of motorcycle clubs coast-to-coast, is extremely concerned about an imaginary war between motorcycle clubs and the government, created in the minds of some law enforcement and government prosecutors, playing itself out in courthouses across America. This ideology of war has followed us to the steps of the criminal justice system, where visibly draconian security measures have been implemented based on unsubstantiated and ambiguous sources, even though there have been no validated examples of motorcycle clubs storming courthouses during a trial. A topical example reinforcing such irresponsible claims has been recently memorialized in a Texas District Attorney’s press release relating to the supposed and constant threat of violent retaliation that prosecutors face during biker trials.
Despite the absurdity of the claim that any motorcycle club would storm a courthouse or target prosecutors with violence, there are no consequences for these falsehoods meant only to perpetuate fear and reinforce false narratives about 1% motorcycle clubs. And, of course, these false threats are used to justify excessive security measures during biker trials.
This fear-based tactic has real implications. Inside the courtroom, juries will be biased against biker defendants because of the perception that their safety is in jeopardy. Outside the courtroom, law enforcement will increasingly treat those exercising the constitutional liberties of association and expression as a direct violent threat based on inaccurate information and training. Incidents of motorcycle profiling and selective enforcement of the law will likely continue at epidemic levels until a more accurate narrative is reported by the media, both grassroots and mainstream.
Sharon Wilson, the Tarrant County District Attorney, issued a press release on June 28, 2018 (below) reporting that Assistant District Attorney Pamela Boggess has been named “2018 Prosecutor Of The Year” by the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the successful prosecution of Ft. Worth Bandido Howard “Drifter” Baker, convicted last year of directing a criminal organization.
Without debating the merits of Drifter’s prosecution, or the sufficiency of his legal counsel, the NCOC believes that the Tarrant County District Attorney’s press release further perpetuates baseless claims only intended to sensationalize and prejudice public perception against defendants and motorcycle clubs generally. Boggess is being recognized not only for a successful prosecution, but also for being successful under the constant threat of gang retaliation, a theatrical claim at best. The Press Release states:
“Prosecutors were the target of violent threats from gang sources throughout their handling of the case, and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn maintained an unprecedented lockdown of the courthouse, including deputies positioned on the rooftops, for the duration of the trial.”….”These gang members rely on intimidation tactics, but they find out quickly they’ve met their match in Pam Boggess.”
What gang sources? What information did these sources provide? Why has no one been arrested or prosecuted for these threats? Unfortunately, this “made for Hollywood” scenario in Ft. Worth is NOT an anomaly. Similar incidents in Waco and San Antonio courthouses involving enhanced security measures based on fictitious threats, with the same unanswered questions, have been widely publicized in the media.
In fact, NCOC participants were present during both trials and witnessed firsthand the ridiculous security measures employed, again based on unsubstantiated claims. In Waco, the Sheriff’s Office constructed a fence around the entire courthouse and paid hundreds of thousands for extra security at the courthouse, and for personal security for prosecutors away from the courthouse. In San Antonio, a person was required to go through two metal detectors and have their ID photographed before they could enter the courtroom and sit in designated seats. Marshals surrounded the defendants in court, even when the jury was present.
The idea of using a tragic incident, whether it be a trial or a shooting, to advance a campaign of fear and draconian security, is not a new one. And it’s particularly not new in Texas.
Years before the mistrial in the first Waco prosecution of Dallas Bandido Jake Carrizal, Sgt. Swanton of the Waco Police Department declared on national TV, as nearly 200 people were rounded-up to ultimately be arrested on generic fill-in the blank arrest warrants based solely on their associations, that they had received credible threats that bikers had “green-lit” law enforcement and were coming to Waco to retaliate. 1 Immediately following the incident at Twin peaks Waco law enforcement issued a statement warning “bikers to stay off the streets because it was difficult to distinguish between law-abiding riders and those bent on criminality.” The local Harley Davidson dealership was even closed. 2 The Federal Board of Prisons, the Texas Border Intelligence Agency, and the Texas Department of Public Safety all issued bulletins based on these reports about retaliation. 3But in the end, after the national spotlight had disappeared, authorities admitted that none of the threats of retaliation were found valid or true.
Law enforcement quietly acknowledged, but failed to emphasize, that these reports were based on completely unsubstantiated information provided by an unnamed informant. 4 Additionally, the alleged
informant lost all credibility and believability by naming a non-existent club called the “Black Widows” as the source of the information. “The Black Widows Motorcycle Club, while it might carry a looming scary name, is actually the fictitious group from a Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose“. There is no actual Bike Gang called “The Black Widows” anywhere in the South or Southwest.” 5
Furthermore, NCOC participants observed firsthand Waco PD and Texas DPS officers admitting under oath during the Carrizal trial that threats reported by Swanton in 2015 turned out to be false and unsubstantiated. But even after the Waco PD’s original story started to fall apart, most of the media that originally swallowed Swanton’s narrative without question, never doing their own investigation or fact checking, never went back to correct the record even though many were present during this testimony.
After the smoke and mirrors are removed, no valid threat of violence from motorcycle clubs against law enforcement or government authorities exists. An NCOC participant from Nevada with vast trial experience, including trials with excessive security issues, confirms that authorities have zero historical basis when he writes, “We have asked judges or prosecutors to find a biker trial where they have had court issues, and they cannot.” But the headlines have already done their perceptual damage. The outlaw image is simply too easy to exploit, too easy to sensationalize, and too easily manipulated to generate real fear. Fear in the eyes of jurors, law enforcement, the general public, and even other motorcyclists.
The NCOC believes that public officials and law enforcement should be challenged by the media when they feed reporters sensationalized rhetoric. The media should demand an answer to these questions before irresponsible and one-sided messaging is used to generate fear and hysteria that has tangibly negative impacts on motorcycle clubs and their members. The imaginary threats faced by law enforcement do not exist. But the ability to influence juries, justify draconian security on the taxpayer’s dime, and perpetuate law enforcement profiling and abuse is very real.
Until that happens, grassroots media unconstrained by institutional control must continue to challenge mainstream media with balanced and investigative reporting. Reducing the use of one-sided media reports that reinforce stereotypes of danger reduces bias, and the probability of treating bikers as criminals, Media that counters stereotypes can reduce perceptions of danger. There is even evidence that “counter-stereotypic information can reduce or even eliminate bias.” (*See JOSHUA CORRELL from the University of Chicago, The influence of stereotypes on decisions to shoot, Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 37, 1102–1117 (2007))
Balanced media that highlights the positive contributions and attributes of the motorcycling community directly impacts the general perception that all bikers are dangerous. Beyond the inherent value of truth, reducing perceptions of danger can directly reduce mistakes made by police when dealing with bikers.
1 See “Bikers put out ‘green light’ against officers following Waco shooting”, Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle, May 18, 2015. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Total-arrests-announced-in-Waco-Twin- Peaks-6270189.php
2 See “Waco Biker Shooting Giving Bars Pause About Letting Gangs In”, By Howard Koplowitz, ibtimes.com, May 21, 2015 10:53 AM EDT; see Police want bikers off streets after deadly Texas shooting, BY LISA MARIA GARZA, Reuters US , Tue May 19, 2015 11:25am EDT;
3 See “Texas Oﬃcers Warned About Retaliation After Deadly Waco Biker Shootings”, CBS News DFW, May 18, 2015 6:06 PM, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2015/05/18/texas-oﬃcers-warned-about-retaliation-after-deadly-waco-biker-shootings/
4 See “Waco authorities investigate new threats from biker gangs”, Xinhua News, Houston, May 22, 2015. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-05/23/c_134262912.htm
5 See “A Narrative Of Convenient Paranoia – Waco Police Claim Threats From Non-Existent Motorcycle Gangs….”, The Conservative Treehouse, May 22, 2015. http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/05/22/a-narrative-of- convenient-paranoia-waco-police-claim-threats-from-non-existent-motorcycle-gangs/
White Settlement, Texas City Councilman Dave Mann, also a Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff, abruptly resigned Tuesday night, a week after the city, he said, “recognized local Bandidos motorcycle gang members during a proclamation for Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.” Mann is extensively quoted by local media vilifying the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, even members participating in protected political conduct, suggesting that Bandidos not be recognized for any civic achievements or even be allowed at public events.
The comments by employees of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department reveal a fundamental flaw in law enforcement’s understanding of the 1st Amendment and the rights of expression and association embodied within. This fundamental flaw, to treat all members of the Bandidos or their associates as criminals, based on the actions of other members, increases the probability of illegal profiling and other acts of discrimination targeting individuals for their associations, not behaviors.
On May 8th, 2018 members of motorcycle clubs openly displaying support for the Bandidos MC were among a group recognized by the city council for their efforts during Motorcycle Awareness Month. Because of this recognition, local news media reports Dave Mann as saying that he could no longer serve on a council that did not value and protect its citizens.
The Star-Telegram reports Mann writing in his letter of resignation, “It is a sad day when city officials invite violent criminal street gangs into our city who thrive on selling heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and other narcotics and promote prostitution, human trafficking, gun trafficking, murder and other criminal activities.”
This discriminatory mindset extends to Mann’s direct supervisor. “I commend you for taking the higher road,” Capt. B Hardin wrote. “Not just as a City Councilman but as a Texas Peace Officer. We really have to watch who we associate with and it’s obvious there are some people on your City Council who prefer to associate with the wrong people.”
Mann doesn’t even think members should be allowed at public events. The Star Telegram reports, “The letter also stated that when the motorcycle gang members were leaving the city hall, a city official “openly” invited them to the Fourth of July parade, a family friendly activity. “I cannot be a part of a council who openly honors criminals and their illicit activities. Council members are sworn to protect our citizens!”
(See Star-Telegram, “Did White Settlement honor Bandidos? This councilman says so, and now he has resigned,” May 15, 2018)
It’s a good thing Dave Mann has resigned. Unfortunately, he and his supervisor are law enforcement officers and their discriminatory mindset follows the former council member to the streets where real damage can occur. Mann’s desire to exclude Bandido supporters from public events or political activities in the community would violate the 1st Amendment.
Motorcycle clubs, including those clubs labeled organized or criminal gangs by authorities, are 1st Amendment protected associations. Restrictions such as Mann appears to endorse, solely based on association in a motorcycle club, would violate the 1st Amendment.
There is “no evidence that by merely wearing [1% motorcycle club] “colors,” an individual is “involved in or associated with the alleged violent or criminal activity of other [1% motorcycle club] members. It is a fundamental principle that the government may not impose restrictions on an individual “merely because an individual belong[s] to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence.” In fact, the Supreme Court has long “disapproved governmental action . . . denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen’s association with an unpopular organization.” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 185-86 (1972).
If Mann were permitted to impose restrictions on any person “who wears the insignia of [a 1% motorcycle club], without regard to or knowledge of that individual’s specific intent to engage in the alleged violent activities committed by other members,” it would be “antithetical to the basic principles enshrined in the First Amendment and repugnant to the fundamental doctrine of personal guilt that is a hallmark of American jurisprudence.”
(see Coles v. Carlini 162 F.Supp.3d 380 (2015))
If Mann responds to Motorcycle Awareness Month with such venomous rage, how do you think he treats club members on the side of the road? Mann’s abusive and discriminatory rhetoric is unacceptable as a public servant and serves to demonstrate why legislation addressing the issue of motorcycle profiling is so important.
Maybe it’s time that Dave Mann writes another letter of resignation.
The post Texas Sheriff Dave Mann Resigns from City Council After Bikers Honored appeared first on Motorcycle Profiling Project.
If you believe that motorcycle profiling by law enforcement agencies is wrong and should not be tolerated, please use the link below contact your representatives in Congress and ask them to support the Motorcycle Profiling Resolution (H.Res.318 and S.Res.154).
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is working with the National Council of Clubs and the Motorcycle Profiling Project to call on our elected officials to end unconstitutional profiling of motorcyclists across our county. If your member of congress has signed on, you can still ask them to lean on their colleagues to support these resolutions.