Judge in Mongols trademark case recuses self, trial delayed

LOS ANGELES >> A federal trial in which the government is seeking to seize control of the logo of the Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club scheduled to begin this week has been delayed after the presiding judge pulled himself from the case last week.
Judge Otis Wright II recused himself from the case earlier this week, according to attorney Joseph Yanny, who is representing the Mongols. Yanny and his clients have asserted for more than a year that Wright should be removed from the case for his removal for months, arguing the judge had demonstrated a bias against the motorcycle club, which prosecutors have labeled a criminal enterprise.
The decision came more than a year after Mongols attorneys filed a motion seeking a new judge in the civil case.
“It’s not that we disrespect Judge Wright, I just think it’s better for everybody the way this is going,” Yanny said.
The case was reassigned to Judge John A. Kronstadt.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for June 4 in federal court in Los Angeles. It was not clear when the trial, which was previously scheduled to begin Tuesday, will take place.
Wright previously oversaw portions of a trial in which 80 Mongols named in a federal indictment pleaded guilty to charges. The case stemmed from a 2008 federal operation targeting the Mongols in six states dubbed “Operation Black Rain.”
Yanny said Wright has made statements indicating he has a bias against the Mongols. And it was Wright who first suggested to prosecutors to go after the Mongols’ logo.
“The integrity of the system is at issue. Everybody’s entitled to a fair trial. I think he realized it was best if he stepped down,” Yanny said. “We meant no insult to him.”
U.S. Department of Justice officials previously declined to discuss the motion seeking Wright’s removal from the case.
“I think this is going to be a vast improvement for us. I could be wrong, but i think we’ll get a fair trial this way,” Yanny said.
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials maintain that the Mongols are not merely a club, but a criminal organization linked to drugs and deadly violence which uses its trademark for intimidation. Federal officials have argued that move to seize the Mongols’ logo is intended to prevent violence.
Yanny said the members involved in the 2008 indictment are no longer members of the Mongols, and that the government was seeking to punish the entire organization of more than 700 bikers based on the actions of a small proportion of members.
Furthermore, Mongols fighting in court to save their “patch” have argued in legal documents that their logo is not a trademark, such as those used by businesses, but rather represents a “collective membership mark,” amounting to protected speech under the First Amendment.

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Defendants in Mongols case begin to cop pleas

First Doc flipped, then the rest of the gang began pleading out — 60 of 79 charged in the October 2008 Federal racketeering case have plead. Of those 10 took 20 years.

Here’s a snippet from Maritza Velazquez’s story:

Sixty of 79 Mongols Motorcycle Club members arrested in a federal sweep have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

About 10 of those who entered guilty pleas have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, and the rest are expected to be sentenced later this year, spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

The trial for the remaining 19 defendants is set for April 13, Mrozek said. It’s likely the trial will be delayed because the judge assigned to the case is expected to retire in March, Mrozek said.

“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn true,” said John A. Torres, special agent in charge for the Los Angeles Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “We’ll wait as long as it takes to bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

In October 2008, 61 people from Southern California were arrested in a federal sweep targeting members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

According to a federal indictment made public at the time, the suspects, including purported ringleader Ruben “Doc” Cavasos, of West Covina, faced charges ranging from murder and drug trafficking to robbery and witness intimidation.

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Toonerville crew arrested in connection with Mongol slaying

LAPD Press Release: 
On October 8, 2008, at 1:55 a.m., Manual Martin was riding his motorcycle on the eastbound 210 Freeway while transitioning to the southbound 2 Freeway in the city of Glendale.  A car pulled up next to him, and within a few seconds, the occupants fired thirteen shots. Martin was shot once in the chest and died within minutes.  Seven additional bullets hit his motorcycle.  The Glendale Police Department investigated the murder and identified the suspects as members of a local street gang.  Their investigation also revealed that the gang was responsible for other crimes.  
This from the Associated Press: 
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton says officers have arrested 19 members of one of the city’s most violent gangs. 
The arrests Thursday by Los Angeles and suburban Glendale police  were the result of a 10-month investigation of the Toonerville gang.
After a member of the Mongols motorcycle gang was gunned down on Interstate 210 last
October, Glendale police used a wiretap and discovered key evidence that led to the arrests.
Police say four murder suspects, four attempted-murder or assault suspects and 12 drug
suspects were arrested in the early morning raid. Police found 48 guns in one house and 63 guns in all.
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Mongols gang leader Doc Cavazos cops a guilty plea

We’ve been following several sealed motions in this case via the Federal court’s PACER system. It appeared as if West Covina resident Doc Cavazos entered into a plea deal with the feds and now the Associated Press is reporting that he’s looking at 20 years in prison:

LOS ANGELES  — The former national president of the notorious Mongols
motorcycle gang has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in a case that
accused other members of murder, drug trafficking and violent attacks.

Prosecutors revealed January’s guilty plea by Ruben “Doc” Cavazos in court papers filed on June 29. He could face up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in February.

A phone message left with Cavazos’ attorney Angel Navarro was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Cavazos and other Mongol leaders directed members to engage in murders, extortion,
robberies and drug trafficking to “promote and further the activities of the Mongols
gang,” according to a 177-page indictment.

Among other things, prosecutors claim Cavazos was involved in negotiating with Mexican Mafia leaders over the collection of payments for drug trafficking in areas controlled by that gang and getting Mongol members to commit crimes against people who challenged the gang’s authority.


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Cops raid Mongols Motorcycle Club sites

SAN GABRIEL — Police seized Mongols motorcycle-gang paraphernalia Thursday during a Parole Probation Compliance Check of 40 locations in Rosemead and South San Gabriel, officials said.

The items bearing the Mongols insignia included shirts, jackets, a clock and beanies.

They where found in the home of Mauricio Montano, on the 8100 block of Blewett Street in San Gabriel, according Sgt. Mark Flores of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Temple Station.

Montano is believed to be part of a Pico Rivera chapter of the outlaw Motorcycle gang, officials said. He was taken into custody but not arrested.

“We will write up a report and start an investigation,” Flores said. “We will hand it over to the Federal Government.”

A federal judge in October barred the Mongols gang from wearing or distributing its logo. The order came one day after a nationwide federal sweep, which landed 61 Southern California Mongols members in jail.

During Thursday’s operation, police made six arrests. The charges included marijuana cultivation, possession of methamphetamine, procession of narcotics and narcotic paraphernalia and felons in possession of ammunition.

The operation included about 50 officers from the Detection Unit, Asian Gang Task Force and Special Projects Team.

The action follows a similar raid in Azusa.

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Mongols under close watch in Azusa when Pico Rivera shooting occurred

This from the “Aging Rebel” blog, which adds some context to several of the stories we’ve reported about the triple homicide in Pico Rivera Saturday night:

Last week the Azusa, California Police Department issued a “tactical alert” that the Mongols were planning a party at a restaurant on Foothill Boulevard, old Route 66, in Azusa. When the partiers arrived they were greeted by a command center and officers from the Montebello, Azusa, Glendora, Arcadia and Monrovia Police departments. The Mongols and friends were also surveilled by a Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department helicopter.

A source has alleged that ATF Case Agent John Ciccone and another well known “outlaw motorcycle gang investigator” named Chris Cervantes both attended the event with their special spy cameras. Cervantes works for the Montebello police and his hobbies include the Mongols.

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From the e-mail bag

We’re working to verify these stories now. Just thought I’d share some of the mail. First a car crash Sunday in Rowland Heights:

There was a car crash on May 17th, 2009, Sunday. My fiance was behind the car when it got hit by an suv, the car flipped over and landed in Joe’s Crab Shack. My fiance saw the car flipped upside down and he saw the passenger with their eyes open and blood everywhere. He was sure they had passed away, and has been pretty tramatized about it. I’ve been looking everywhere on the internet to see if it was reported and I havent found anything. I was wondering if you will be reporting it? or is there anywhere that they might where I can find it. I just would like to give him some peace of mind and me as well. Thank you so much 🙂 It happened in Rowland heights by the Puente Hills Mall.

Next, a stabbing in Highland Park (also Sunday):

There was a stabbing in Garvanza Park near the corner ofAvenue 64 and Meridian last night (Sunday, the 17th) at approximately6 pm. The small park was full of families at that time and I believe thestabbing victim has since succumbed (based on the memorial that nowstands in the park). There was a heavy LAPD presence in the park justafter the slaying.
As I have seen no mention of this incident in the media anywhere, I thoughtI’d bring it to your attention.

Questions about the Mongols motorcycle gang:

I’ve recently become aware that they’remaking a film about William Queen’s book, “Under and Alone.”
After reading the book, I began to wonder how The Mongols got to be what they are today. I knew one of them, very briefly, 30 years ago, and he and his friends were not like the book described at all.
I read the article in the SGV Tribune and,although they weren’t boy scouts,Tony Vodnik’s description was more what I remember.
He may be able to answer some questions for me.
If you have a way I can contact him via email, and can share that info with me – or forward this to him, I’d appreciate it.

Finally, a drive-by in Rowland Heights:

I was told by a friend that there was a drive by shooting in Rowland Heights last week.
I wanted to make sure of those facts. I saw a deputy sheriff so I asked him if there was
in fact a drive by shooting in Rowland Heights. He said yes there was one.
Why isn’t there any mention of it on your site or in the Newspaper?

Care to chime in on any of these incidents?

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