|06-11-2007, 07:01 PM||#1|
Joined: Dec 2006
From: Silverdale, Wa
I Ride: 2006 Gsxr-600
Three Hells Angels convicted in federal racketeering case in Seattle
By COLIN McDONALD AND PAUL SHUKOVSKY
For decades, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club took pride in beating organized-crime charges and had the money to hire some of the best defense lawyers in the business.
But times, at least in Washington, have changed.
On Monday the president of the Washington Nomads, the Washington state chapter of the Hells Angels, sat next to his two public defenders to hear a jury convict him of racketeering charges and being a mafia-style crime boss.
Richard "Smiling Rick" Allen Fabel, 49 of Spokane, now faces 20 years in prison for running a corrupt organization based on stealing, violence and physical threats. Two other former members of the club were also convicted.
Their attorneys wouldn't comment. Standing in the courtyard of the federal courthouse, they hugged relatives of the defendants. Men in embroidered leather jackets stood closely by.
Fabel's sentencing in September will be the latest hit against the Washington chapter, which now has few members outside prison walls.
In British Columbia, the Hells Angels makes millions by moving marijuana and has more than 100 members, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police. But in Washington, the chapter dealt mostly in stolen motorcycles and parts and had nine members when investigators started to build their case in 2001.
"The Hell's Angels in B.C. are some of the richest Hells Angels in the world," said RCMP Inspector Gary Shinkaruk, supervisor of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Unit. "The Hells Angels in Washington aren't viewed as that high in the pecking order."
Defense attorneys argued that the Washington group, which operated out of a clubhouse in Spokane, was nothing more than a group of guys who got together to eat an occasional steak and ride motorcycles.
Prompted by a killing, sheriff deputies in Snohomish County along with police officers in Monroe, Washington State Patrol investigators and agents with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent five years watching the club and persuading witnesses to come forward to testify.
The defense repeatedly pointed out that the key prosecution witnesses were convicted criminals whom the government had paid and who expected better treatment in prison and lower sentences in return for their testimony.
Some of the testimony was inconsistent and the witnesses themselves were "colorful," acknowledged acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan.
But he said the jury was able to see that "essentially all of the witnesses were telling the truth" and that the verdict proved the Washington chapter was more than guys who got together to sell T-shirts and ride motorcycles.
Joshua Binder, 31, of North Bend was found guilty of conspiracy and faces a 20-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Also facing sentencing in September will be Rodney Rollness, 46, of Snohomish. The jury found the former member guilty of killing of Michael "Santa" Walsh to further the Hells Angels' racketeering. Walsh was shot twice in 2001 for posing as a full member of the club at a party. His death started the investigation.
Rollness faces a mandatory life sentence.
Walsh's niece was crying and dabbing her eyes after the verdict. "We've been waiting five years," Rachelle Walsh said. "I can't say I'm happy they are guilty, but I'm happy there is justice. I'm happy for my family."
Rachelle Walsh said she felt sorry that the defendants' families who would have to explain to their children that their fathers had done bad things. "It was hard enough trying to explain to my 6-year-old son why his uncle couldn't take him fishing that summer," she said.
Some of the defendant's family members, including young children, visited the courtroom daily through out the three-month trial.
The jury couldn't reach a verdict on a fourth defendant, Ricky Jenks, 29, of Spokane. But federal prosecutors plan to retry him on charges conspiracy and racketeering.
|06-11-2007, 07:02 PM||#2|
Joined: Oct 2006
I Ride: ZedEX-14 (Blue/Green) and KTM Adventure (Orange)
Fabel has been charged with one thing or another since the Angels opened their clubhouse in Spokane. That they finally got something to stick is surprising.