The Stakes (20)

In March 2004, there was a status conference to address a number of matters, including the possibility of a Faretta hearing. The judge noted that Danny seemed to have had “a great deal of fun” representing himself in state court, but here in federal court, fun would not be tolerated. And now that Danny had asked for counsel, he decided to be contrary and say no. Or maybe he would appoint a standby counsel, “just in case you aren’t able to continue with your self-representation.” Years later, another lawyer wrote that “the court’s error in failing to comply with Faretta and permitting Mr. Fabricant to represent himself during those early periods… itself would be grounds for reversal of his conviction.”

Then, there was a Faretta inquiry, but apparently the judge rushed through it and still didn’t get the job done. They were talking about a ten year mandatory minimum sentence. But what was really at stake was a mandatory life sentence. It’s what you might call a “materially different sentence range,” and the defendant was not correctly informed of it. If he were to be convicted, the worst-case scenario, life in prison, was not just a possibility, but a certainty. It’s the kind of thing that might cause a person to change his mind about being his own lawyer.

In April, the court appointed a standby counsel. In June, the government filed a “sentencing enhancement information” – insisting on a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Under federal law, if someone sells, or possesses for sale, more than 50 grams of meth, and has two or more previous drug convictions, that person goes away forever. The amount that Danny was charged with selling to Kramer was just enough. The life sentence came from the conspiracy count and the 51.9 gram figure, just over the magic 50-gram line of demarcation. Not long ago, the comparable law on crack cocaine was changed, to where it now takes 280 grams to trigger the mandatory life sentence. If the meth rules had changed in a parallel manner, Danny would not have been vulnerable to any mandatory minimum.

The judge, who was known for having a lot of his decisions reversed, made another bad call. He ruled that the jury was not to be told anything about how the informant Kramer, whose evidence they were relying on, had been one of the slayers of Cynthia Garcia. It’s the kind of detail that might cause a juror to think twice. If the juror knew about it.

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Jailhouse Lawyer (19)

Thanks, Donald Charles Davis, for spelling out an important concept: “More than 96 percent of all federal defendants plead guilty. Ninety percent of the four percent who insist on inconveniencing the system with a trial are found guilty. Once they indict you, you have less than one chance in a hundred of being exonerated.” Imagine going up against a machine like that, alone. According to received wisdom, a self-representing defendant has a fool for a lawyer and an imbecile for a client. But a friend of Danny’s says, “One of the things he did for me was, he convinced me that you can represent yourself and you’re not a fool.” And sometimes you don’t have a choice. When your public defender arrives in court and hasn’t read the police report yet, it’s easy to get fed up with the system. Sometimes you make the choice with confidence and bet on yourself even in a grotesquely rigged game.

Way back in 1987, a story by Scott Harris in the L.A. Times named Danny as one of the best-known jailhouse lawyers in California and went on to say, “Fabricant now has four appellate court opinions in his name. He claims to have beaten primary criminal charges in 15 out of 18 cases.” Published opinions can be cited in legal pleadings, briefs on appeal, and so forth, and are printed in those matching sets of law books in the background when attorneys have their pictures taken. Most licensed lawyers don’t have one published opinion in their career. Danny’s four California Court of Appeal published Opinions (from ’78, ’79, ’80 & ’81) are at

At his arraignment the day after the raid, Danny had invoked a 1975 federal case known as Faretta, which established the constitutional right of a mentally competent criminal defendant to be his own lawyer. For judges nationwide it is their most hated Supreme Court ruling, and they don’t like a pro se defendant one bit. But this judge didn’t use the strongest means available to him to prevent it. Danny explains, “They feel silly reciting the ‘dangers and disadvantages’ litany to me, because they know that I know all of that, but they’re required to do it and they screw up the case by not doing it.”

Judges also tend to want to hurry things along, which sometimes comes back to bite them, and wastes a lot more time further on down the line. Depending on who tells the story, Danny may or may not have been adequately warned about the drawbacks of acting as his own lawyer. Either way, it was responsibility without authority, and he was was never allowed to do or have most of the things that a lawyer does and has. As a self-representing defendant, Danny asked for his own word processor or at least a typewriter, and for an investigator and a researcher to be appointed, along with funding for those and other expenses in the preparation of his defense. Since he couldn’t leave the Metropolitan Detention Center, he needed to be able to talk with potential witnesses there, and to have un-recorded phone access and confidential mail. It’s really hard to ask people these kinds of questions when every interview is copied and sent to the prosecutors. Anyway, the district court said no to everything. Those limitations led to many consequent legal tangles, and the complications of exercising this right became a major theme in his legal journey.

photo op

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Danny and Rachel (18)

Danny had been getting phone calls since 6:00 in the morning, from or about friends that things were happening to. Around 7:00, he let his dogs outside and moved a car from his lot to the street. As he parked it, a helicopter appeared overhead. A loud voice directed him to get out, and by the time he did, the car was boxed in by two Sheriff’s cars, and 20 cops (including the ones in the helicopter) were pointing guns at him.

There was a warrant for Rachel, too, but she had been visiting relatives on Black Biscuit Day. When she turned herself in, Danny’s brother Terry and a lawyer friend went along. The government wanted to hold her without bail, but because she had self-surrendered and was in her early 20s with a clean record, the judge set bail at a mere $235,000. In federal court, they don’t accept bail bonds. It’s cash, or property equivalent to the full amount, signed over to the Court, or else the person stays in jail. Which is where Rachel stayed. In mid-December, husband and wife were indicted, charged with selling meth to Kramer.


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The Second Big Wave (17)

Throughout all this, Operation Dequiallo had been quietly rolling on even though its target, Danny Fabricant, was no longer a member of anything. Back in June of 2002, soon after the Laughlin incident, around the time when Dobyns and his creatures were sucking up to the Hells Angels, Danny had left the club, in “good standing.” Still, the snitch Kramer dutifully made and recorded phone calls, followed Danny and Rachel around, and made reports about who visited their place. Their shop had been extensively remodeled and added to, creating a pleasant and comfortable living space that included built-ins, central air, a jacuzzi downstairs, full bath upstairs, spacious master bedroom, smaller bedroom, and an office for each of them.

In late August 2003, Kramer’s handlers pulled him off the street after he shot at several people in Sturgis, then threw the gun to a couple of club prospects (who were arrested) and escaped police pursuit himself. But that was small potatoes compared to the Garcia murder, which he had told them about — his version, anyway — early in the year. Kramer and his ATF bosses came to terms and agreed that he would plead guilty to VICAR (Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering) murder on the federal level and manslaughter on the state level, and that his punishment would be five years of probation, to be served at some unspecified future time. To date, he has not yet been sentenced.

On the larger stage, the July 2003 Arizona raids had been followed by months of preparation for the much more extensive mass action planned for the year’s end. An indictment and arrest warrants were issued for 42 Laughlin participants (two more were added later.) On December 2, 2003, many dozens of federal agents from all over the east coast arrived at the Los Angeles, Sacramento and Bay Area airports. The president of the San Fernando Valley Hells Angels sent several computer towers, boxes of CDs and miscellaneous paperwork over to Danny’s shop for storage. Since Danny hadn’t been at Laughlin, and was no longer a club member, it seemed like a good spot for those things to stay and await developments.

The next day, Operation Dequiallo was subsumed into Operation Black Biscuit as it descended on dozens of targets in Alaska, Arizona, Washington, Nevada, and California. The credited organizations included 19 local police departments, 13 federal agencies or branches thereof, 8 county sheriffs departments, 1 state police force and 1 state agency (and a partridge in a pear tree, it’s hard to resist adding.) They made numerous arrests and seized, surprisingly, only 50 firearms (most were registered, but counting them all makes the statistics look better). They also took ammunition, computers, small amounts of meth, and Hells Angels club paraphernalia. At one house, the owner was away, but the tenants were arrested for outstanding misdemeanors, just so the trip wouldn’t be wasted. One raid took place at the home of a member who had died four months previously. So much for timely warrant information.

A house in Winnetka was visited by no fewer than 6 sheriffs and 7 ATF agents. At another residence, there were 10 ATF and 6 sheriffs; at another, 9 ATF and 10 sheriffs. Similar armies swarmed over at least a dozen private homes. In the San Fernando Valley, at least 25 people who had interacted with Kramer were arrested, including Hells Angels and a few non-HA bikers. Some posted bail, others sat tight and were released after a couple of days.

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July Sweep (16)

On the 8th of July, 2003, more than 500 local law enforcers and federal personnel swarmed every known Hells Angels venue in the state of Arizona. In Glendale, the cops demonstrated incompetence typical of the multi-pronged raid. Although the move had been practiced on a mock-up of the building, they still were unable to capture the Cave Creek Club House without messing up. Surrounding the place at oh-dark-hundred, they first killed a yard dog. They knew only one club member was standing security inside, yet gave it the balls-to-the-wall “dynamic entry” treatment, crashing into the structure with an armored vehicle.

The lone occupant, Vietnam veteran and HA prospect Michael Coffelt, came to the door. An officer fired six rifle shots and hit him once. The bleeding Coffelt was charged with assaulting an officer. Of course, the cops said he had shot first. (According to an informal report, his weapon was at all times 15 feet away on a shelf.) Official forensics tests found that Coffelt’s gun had not been fired, but someone neglected to relate that tiny insignificant fact to the grand jury that indicted him. We’ll skip ahead here, and relate how this one thread in the gigantic Black Biscuit tapestry played out, and then look later at some of the other results.

In 2004, the estimable Judge Michael Wilkinson of Maricopa County Superior Court said it would be understandable if a person held a gun while answering the door at 4:42 in the morning. He also described the raid as an attack, and ruled that it was illegal. Since the police had not complied with the knock and announce law, none of the evidence they gathered at the scene was any good. The state Court of Appeals agreed. Also, the charge of aggravated assault on a police officer had to be dismissed, since Coffelt never fired a shot.

The officer was cleared of wrongdoing by her superiors. It was suggested that she thought one of the flashbang grenades was a gunshot aimed at her. Come to think of it, that may be why the police use noisemakers — to provide a handy excuse for any shots that officers fire while carrying out home invasions under color of law.

That wasn’t the end of it. Coffelt said he had sustained permanent physical damage, forcing him to walk with a cane, give up motorcycling, and quit the Hells Angels. He sued the government for breach of his civil rights, plus assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct, invasion of privacy, and several varieties of negligence. After years of preliminary wrangling, both sides on the same day filed motions for dismissal. Maybe it was settled quietly with a payout and a non-disclosure order.

But that wasn’t the end of it either. Various aspects of the Coffelt matter affected other cases. One of the first Hells Angels deceived by the federal infiltrators was Robert “Bad Bob” Johnston Jr, the Mesa president. He became very close with one of the fake Solo Angeles, even confiding to him things he didn’t tell his own vice president. In 2006, the case against Johnston was still going on. His attorney, Brian F. Russo, had been quoting statements made by government agents in other cases, but the court said, basically, “Why are you telling me this?” Russo was all too happy to elaborate on the connection with his client, namely, the 117-page affidavit written by ATF Supervisory Agent Joseph Slatalla (or Slatella) which was the basis for all the mega-raid search warrants. The government had chosen to prosecute various segments of the multiple raids in different ways, but they were all tentacles of the same prosecution. Russo argued that if one of those cases was tainted in some way, it could hurt them all. The Johnston case came out of the same affidavit, so if anything was wrong with the Coffelt case, it was wrong with this one, too.

Russo faced the problems typical of so many cases. The prosecutors fought tooth and nail against turning over requested recordings, reports, and other documents. When defense lawyers stumbled across information through other avenues, only then did the prosecutors admit its existence. Additionally, there was a “confidential witness” involved in Johnston. The defense asserted that anything the CW said ought to be unacceptable, because in a separate matter, and unaware that the person he scolded was the CW in the Johnston case, the very same judge had called the guy “inherently unreliable and untrustworthy.”

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Mike Kramer on the Job (15)

According to motorcycle club lore, some members are entitled to a decoration called the Dequiallo patch, signifying that the wearer has resisted arrest by putting up a fight. For better or worse, Kramer was now the key informant in what Ciccone baptized Operation Dequiallo, a grandiloquent title for what pretty much consisted of one snitch — Kramer — and one successful prosecution — the Fabricants.

It’s not that Kramer didn’t try. He made audio and video recordings of meetings, parties, and random conversations on at least 80 separate occasions, in several different states, always with Ciccone and/or other ATF agents waiting outside. In many of these recordings, it certainly appears that Kramer bought meth and C-4 explosive and ammunition and guns including machine guns. He also captured evidence of convicted felons carrying and handling guns, and people with guns consuming various drugs, which combination is in itself a federal felony. Yet somehow, none of this mountain of expensive spy activity resulted in charges against anyone except Danny and Rachel.

Mike Kramer seems to have been a very sensitive fellow who took offense easily. While employed by the ATF, he used a baseball bat to teach some (much smaller) guy a lesson in respect, and stomped several drunks for no apparent reason. About a week after the Laughlin incident, there was a funeral for two Hells Angels who had died there, and Richard Hyder was en route, on his motorcycle, when Kramer ran over him with a pickup truck and killed him. Being as how the ATF shadowed Kramer everywhere, they were surely aware, and maybe even helped to smooth things over with the highway patrol. He, or they, eliminated a witness who, per Kramer, had been at the Mesa clubhouse the night of the Garcia murder; a witness who had burned the bloody clothes and boots when Eischeid, Augustiniak and Kramer returned from the desert.

Ciccone had to know Kramer was using meth. On a few of the many recordings, other people are heard commenting on the size of the lines Kramer had just snorted. On several occasions, the drunken Kramer forgot to turn off the device which recorded him shoveling crank up the noses of strippers. He regularly sold crank to multiple customers and kept all the profits. He didn’t just sell firearms, he carried them, with the blessing of the ATF. One piece of fallout from the Laughlin bloodshed came to light much later, in 2008, during Danny’s second trial. After Laughlin, Kramer told Ciccone that the San Fernando Valley charter passed a rule that required 24/7 armed security at the clubhouse, in eight-hour shifts. Ciccone testified that “authorization” was granted for Kramer to carry a gun from the ATF higher-ups and the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office. Years before Operation Fast and Furious, bad habits were developing.

The forces of law and order were still determined to prove that all motorcycle clubs were RICO-style criminal enterprises, not least because of the clubhouses and other property that could be picked up under asset forfeiture and by other methods. In 2002, after nearly a year of incarceration, George Christie Jr. had been released to house arrest, with electronic surveillance, awaiting trial on drug, conspiracy, and street terrorism charges. In lieu of a million dollars bail, several of his associates allocated ten pieces of real estate to the government. By the summer of 2003, Christie was free enough to take his family to the Ventura County Fair, which wouldn’t let him in because he refused to take off his club vest. The security people cited a policy instituted the previous year, in reaction to the Laughlin shootout, forbidding gang apparel at the fair. Of course he threatened to sue the police department for defining the Hells Angels as a criminal organization which, as he reminded them, it had never officially been deemed in the jurisdiction. He also helpfully explained that the HA are more of a culture or a religion, than a gang.

Suddenly, the Justice Department shot-callers decided that Operation Black Biscuit had collected enough information (or, depending on who you ask, was coming apart). The campaign against the Arizona Hells Angels was laid out, and arrangements were made to import hundreds of officers from anyplace they could be borrowed from. They got their paperwork squared away and obtained 42 search warrants.

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Dressup and Playacting (14)

The classics are the classics for a reason. This is from Lenny Bruce’s Berkeley Concert (1965):

I think in 1951 there were probably about 7,000 dope fiends in the state and maybe 50 narcotics officers. Today probably there are about 15,000 narcotics officers and 4 dope fiends… They got 4 dopey junkies left, old time 1945 hippies. Okay, one guy works for the county undercover, the other guy works for the federal heat…

Would Bruce only smirk knowingly, or would he have something to say about a motorcycle club with cops in its membership and even in its leadership? Not that anything is intrinsically wrong with the idea — if the group is the Iron Pigs. If it’s the Mongols, that’s another story. Sure, infiltration is an organization’s own fault. For instance, to patch guys in first, and then weed out the bad ones, isn’t the best way to build a membership base. Wisdom dictates caution when reaching out, and even more caution when being reached out to.

The main thing here is that law enforcement has been infected by an immense cultural shift, expressed as a mania for thespianism and low-rent cheap thrills. They want Halloween and Mardi Gras all year long. Actually, raising hell in disguise and blaming somebody else is a tradition since the incident known as the Boston Tea Party, when patriotic Americans masqueraded as Mohawk Indians to vandalize a British ship.

Cops are outrageous enough when in uniform, reserving to themselves the exclusive right to break laws. Ever seen a patrol car signal a turn? Me either. Imagine the mischief they make undercover. Even in a normal SWAT team, cops get to run around in intergalactic storm trooper outfits and blow shit up like a bunch of hormone-crazed teenagers playing a video game. Undercover widens the scope. A cop can pretend to be a hooker or derelict or junkie or high school student, for chrissake.

The new wave in play-acting is electronic impersonation. There may be more cops in online chatrooms pretending to be 13-year-olds, than there are actual 13-year-olds roaming the malls of suburbia. Cops want to put on hippie gear and stir up shit in a crowd of protesters. They want to play make-believe and get into show business. The nation spends millions so some government lifer can have his picture taken with Sonny Barger. Mainly, they want to do things that neither cops nor civilians are supposed to do, and all in the name of maintaining their cover. They get together and have a hella good time swapping anecdotes about their adventures posing as lowlifes.

As in so many human conflicts, the question here is, who are the real low-lifes? What kind of a person worms his way into a group, accepts the friendship and trust of brothers, and then starts recording their war stories, and entrapping them into crimes they wouldn’t have done otherwise, and all those other duplicitous things that undercover agents do? Technically, ATF agents are not permitted to consume illegal drugs or commit any other crimes when in disguise. A National Public Radio story quoted agent William Queen, aka Billy Slow Brain, whose specialty was using violence to impress a club he wanted to join.

Whatever they wanted me to do. If it was stand by and assist in stealing motorcycles or hauling the drugs for them, whatever it was that came up, I did. I had my own little line in the sand, and that was rape and murder.

Oh, is that how it works? They get to draw their own little line in the sand? Apparently, the self-drawn line for some agents extends all the way to murder. And there is no rule against being a total asshole all day long. Like, when some bikers beat up a black guy who allegedly disrespected one of their female relatives, three others bikers contributed by yelling racist epithets. The cheering section were undercover ATF agents, a fact not mentioned in the news or the legal paperwork on the offense. They don’t just pretend to be what they’re not; they instigate and provoke under false colors, worsening the reputation of their targets.

Think of a group you belong to, and think how you would like it if some random douchebags pretended to be members of your group, and did things to make John and Jane Q. Public hate them. Plus, acting like a dick is an excellent way to contaminate certain kinds of evidence. The grand jury sees clandestinely-recorded videotapes of a bunch of wild outlaws acting uncouth, and they don’t know which of the participants are agents or snitches. They figure, just indict everybody and let someone else sort it out.

Cops even play dress-up to investigate each other. There was a club called the Chosen Sons, made up of law enforcement officers, prison guards, bounty hunters and private eyes. When a member sold guns to genuine outlaw gangs, the Chosen Sons were undercover-investigated just like anybody else, for doing what those same investigators had no doubt done in the course of their own careers. The amazing hypocrisy of law-and-order types who form motorcycle clubs baffles other bikers at a soul level. As phrased by Donald Charles Davis,

Some of them are not doing it for undercover purposes, but just because they like to ride and be in a club. Yet if assigned by their masters to undercover duty, they would happily infiltrate and betray Americans who just want a life that includes big machines and the road.

Police need to be doing police work, not amateur theatrics. Every now and then, amazingly, someone in authority agrees. Props to Judge Otis D. Wright, who was trying a guy named William Ramirez. Apparently, Ramirez’s crime was being on the scene when an undercover cop completed a drug transaction with another undercover cop. Judge Wright called it a “staged phony transaction.” He said no to the sentence the prosecution wanted, the unfairness of which offended him. He said, “I don’t think this is what this system is about.”

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Quintessential Undercover (13)

Also in Laughlin (but not at Harrah’s) was Jay Dobyns, aka Jay “Bird” Davis (no relation to Donald Charles Davis, who has studied Dobyns as carefully as any academic biographer.) Just another monumentally self-mythologizing ATF cowboy, this is a man who publicly admits to modeling himself after a fictitious character from a TV series — Sonny Crockett, of Miami Vice. Dobyns and indeed the entire ATF needed something that would look good on the resumé, a success story to wipe away the shame of previous debacles like the typically sloppy and botched operation against the Sons of Silence in 1998-99. (In the course of searching homes, the agency committed vandalism so egregious, even the court could not ignore it. One aspect of that mess was a bar fight that Dobyns bragged about instigating. Overall, 42 people were arrested, exactly half of whom were not even Sons of Silence members. Almost every beef ended in dismissal or acquittal due to evidence that was unlawfully obtained or even fabricated.)

Dobyns set up shop as an outlaw biker, weapons dealer and enforcer. He was vice president of the Solo Angeles, and secret head of his own gang within the club — himself, an assortment of agents and detectives including females in the wife/girlfriend roles, and two bikers who had sold their souls . The president was a dude who ate a bunch of prescription pills and went nuts, and the ATF nailed him for weapons violations and he agreed to be a snitch. This jolly crew got along with Mongols well enough to buy contraband from them for a couple of years, and to establish some kind of reason why they would kill one. Eventually, they disguised a cop as a dead Mongol, complete with erupting brains, and took photos which they presented to the Hells Angels, along with supposed victim’s bloody vest. The HA had not asked for this, and the ATF hadn’t told Dobyns to do it either. He just took the initiative, and supposedly that’s what earned Jay Bird an invite to join the Hells Angels. The Dobyns publicity machine claimed that he became a patched member, but he later admitted that he only made it to prospect.

Quite a few law enforcement personnel posed as Solo Angeles, jockeying to get into the major league club. Though Hells Angels membership policies and safeguards are quite restrictive and its internal security tight, apparently during this era someone was asleep at the wheel. But that doesn’t mean nobody was paying attention. The Dobyns clan had been attracting squinty-eyed looks since early 2002. A Hells Angels chapter president who voiced his suspicion was killed by a still-unknown assassin. A few months later, a Phoenix HA who questioned the Solo Angeles’ legitimacy was picked up and held without bail for owning a bulletproof vest, an unusually severe reaction to that particular felony which has a maximum sentence of three years.

Over the summer, the two clubs got acquainted, but word was going around that the Arizona Solo Angeles were not kosher. Under suspicion from other bikers, the Solos president was no longer of any use, so the government re-activated the old weapons charge. The turncoat vanished into prison and then, apparently, into protective custody. Early in 2003, the Tijuana Solo Angeles president told the Dago (San Diego) Hells Angels president that he didn’t know those Arizona guys. But it was too late, because everyone in the Dago chapter was already heavily wiretapped by the DEA and ATF. Perhaps fearing that the San Diego brothers would push the issue on the Dobyns gang, the agencies sacrificed a just-started major investigation to charge and arrest most of the Dago charter on the few crimes they had evidence on, and hold all of them, including the president, without bail. (Many were eventually convicted of more serious crimes than Danny Fabricant, but all have finished their federal prison sentences.)

Dobyns is a real piece of work, an exemplar of the general fucked-upness of the undercover biz. In one of his many video clips, he gasses on about how government agents are not allowed to do drugs — except legal ones. To keep up with the hyperactive bikers, he had to live on energy drinks, cigarettes, coffee, and up to 15 diet pills per day, which caused him to suffer from mood swings and a racing heart. Awwww. Meanwhile, someone in a position to know says agents “usually get too far into their roles but don’t want to admit it to anyone. Jay Dobyns got spun out on crank.”

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Racketeering is Back (12)

On April 27, 2002, an event shook the biker world and set off lasting repercussions. The place was Rosa’s Cantina, which is not as quaint as it sounds, because the cantina is located inside Harrah’s Casino in the Nevada city of Laughlin. The occasion was the annual River Run, and Ciccone had metaphorically thrown spike strips on the road by telling Harrah’s to brace itself for trouble from the bikers. Coached by the ATF, the local police warned the Hells Angels to be ready for trouble from the Mongols. There were at least two confidential informants in the Mongols at the time, who no doubt contributed to the paranoia.

Mike Kramer was in Laughlin, staying for free at the home of a guy he would spy on and report on. Ciccone was at Harrah’s of course, probably watching from the casino’s surveillance room as the bad vibes escalated. By his own report, he was hanging around the establishment’s front door when the fight broke out a little after 2:00 AM. What are the odds, that the ATF’s rat wrangler should happen to visit this casino on this precise day at this precise time?

An Angel struck a Mongol with a martial-arts kick, and it was on. There were guns, knives, hammers, and plenty of bottles. Strangely, considering how well forewarned the town was, a police sergeant told a reporter, “We ran out of the regular handcuffs. We ran out of the speed cuffs. We didn’t have anything.” A majority of men in both clubs abstained from fighting, but the legal aftermath included an orgy of overcharging. A guy who (as proven by videotape) did nothing more than duck and cover, was charged with racketeering and murder. The death toll was one Mongol and two Hells Angels, with many more injured. Red and white flowers — the HA colors, thus signifying an insult and a challenge — were sent to a hospitalized Mongol. The Hells Angels denied involvement, and even some Mongols accepted that the floral arrangement was sent by a government agent provocateur.

The rumble at Rosa’s justified the ATF’s existence. Operation Black Biscuit was no longer a solution in search of a problem. Operation This, That, and the Other Thing all picked up steam, overlapped and morphed, with both utilitarian bureaucratic titles and fancy names made for TV. It’s hard to keep track.

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The two worst people in this story meet (11)

Within a few weeks of the murder, Mike Kramer introduced himself to ATF agent John Ciccone, one of those people for whom the term “legend in his own mind” was invented. The ATF is full of them, but this guy is in a class all by himself. Some sycophant wrote that Ciccone may be the most professional policeman in the country. If he is, God help us all. A non-sycophant has described Ciccone as having the “uncleanest hands of all.” His main talent seems to lie in stirring up shit between Hells Angels and Mongols, to the detriment of both brotherhoods. Because of his sleazy tactics, a large number of cases tend to collapse. But that’s okay, because even when cases are dismissed, a lot of bikers and their families and friends have been put through devastating trouble and expense, so Ciccone still wins.

Once, he sent in a “confidential informant” to infiltrate a club with a motorcycle registered to the ATF. But hey, we all make mistakes. And he does have other skills, like keeping his lips zipped in courtrooms while his pet snitches lie about when and how much they were paid. Strangely, Ciccone has not worked undercover himself, but he adores undercover agents, and has told reporters that after returning from the land of make-believe, “They should get anything they want!” In this respect, he apparently makes no distinction between government agents who presumably take some kind of oath to uphold the Constitution of the USA, and sleazoids who betray their own brothers. They all get anything they want.

Kramer was on the ATF payroll in time to make a nice Christmas for his family. In his new career as paid informant, Kramer’s living expenses were covered by the taxpayers – rent, utilities, investment capital to buy drugs and guns, and an extra $500 a week allowance on general principles. Despite the cozy relationship between handler and protégé, the topic of Cynthia Garcia never came up. The all-knowing Ciccone did not have Clue #1 about Kramer’s role in what the director of the U.S. Marshals was calling “one of the most grisly murders in recent American criminal history.”

Another Ciccone trait is an aptitude for creatively labeling the various operations that are carried out with all the solemnity and righteousness of the Allies’ Normandy invasion in World War II. Existing only inside the various government agencies, these campaigns have boring names like “Phoenix ATF 7805040-02-0049,” but if a whiff of PR potential is in the air, they are re-christened with catchy militaristic titles. Operation Ivan was against the Mongols. Operation Black Rain was too, not only in the West but in Baltimore and Virginia. Operation Black Biscuit was against the Hells Angels and anybody else who got in the way.

Kramer was told to move to California and infiltrate the San Fernando Valley Hells Angels, playing the role of a drug runner (not very much of a stretch. To give the club its due respect, no less an authority than Jay Dobyns wrote of Kramer, “He was one of the few Angels we ever got to flip.”) In early 2002, the turncoat offered to help out his law enforcement friends by clearing up an unsolved murder. They sent him back to Arizona, tasked with extracting incriminating statements from Eischeid and Augustiniak. The taxpayers bought some fancy knives for Kramer to present to the others. According to the plan, the gifts would buy their good will and provide a conversational segue into reminiscences about the stabbing of Cynthia Garcia, in which they would incriminate themselves. But Augustiniak was wary, and suggested that a rat could meet the same fate as a mouthy woman. Ciccone was officially unaware of Kramer’s part in the murder until a year later, although he had to have heard these recordings and others. At both of Danny’s trials, when Ciccone was questioned, he claimed he must have missed certain parts. Some hotshot agent!

In their renewed effort to go after motorcycle clubs as racketeering organizations, the fertile brains of the ATF never rested. In Out Bad, Davis recounts a conversation with John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted, who held his fingers a fraction of an inch apart and said, “The ATF is this close to owning the Mongols logo and if you wear a Mongols hat or a cut jacket or if you wear their tee-shirt it will be against the law. I think it’s a really good way to hit them right in the financial belt.”

By this time, a court had already decided that financial gain was no longer even a relevant criterion to a RICO prosecution. Besides, the notion that a big, bad crime empire will crumble if the government impedes its sales of gimme caps and bumper stickers, is just silly. George Christie had been locked up again for about a year, and it was only ten years since the reporters had assured their readers that the Hells Angels were no big deal. Did they really change so much since then? Though the ATF had been concentrating on the Mongols, to bring down the Hells Angels was every agent’s wet dream.

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