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A month later, less than half of 33 arrested Vagos members charged

A month after authorities in Riverside County targeted the Vagos motorcycle gang, less than half of the 33 members arrested have yet to be charged with a crime, records show.

Authorities said the March 17 multi-agency operation was intended to send a "powerful message" to the gang, which was described as an "extreme threat" to law enforcement.

As of Wednesday, criminal charges had been filed against 14 of the reputed members, according to a Times review of records filed in Riverside County Superior Court.

Two members who were charged have pleaded guilty to felony counts of possessing controlled substances, records show.

Others, such as a 50-year-old man arrested on suspicion of possessing a billy club, have yet to be charged. A 31-year-old member arrested on suspicion of  possessing a counterfeit state seal had also not been charged, according to court records.

John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney's office, said prosecutors are still reviewing some of the cases. In others, he said, there is no rush to file charges because the defendants are not in jail, which would have forced prosecutors to file charges quicker.

The operation, during which about 400 officers targeted more than 70 locations, was successful because it let the Vagos know they have caught the attention of law enforcement officials, Hall said. Officers seized weapons, small quantities of drugs and stolen vehicles.

"They need to know we are keeping an eye on them," Hall said. "Part of the message we are trying to send is to let them know we know they are out there."

-- Robert J. Lopez
 
Comments () | Archives (11)

OMG, no charges filed by the DA's office? That's weird. Well, certainly it MUST have been the result of crooked cops who failed to adequetely plant evidence and falsify testimony against a misunderstood, stereotyped, and obviously profiled "club," whose members just want to live in peace..like the rest of you pot-smoking feel-gooders who enjoy strolling by the local dispensary with your noses in the air, discussing how wonderful you are for voting in Obama and how you are a champion for the disenfranchised masses. Maybe the police and DA's office were too focused on their attempts to take away your precious "Monkey Balls" or "Purple Haze" and close your god-given Dispensaries that they forgot to file charges on these guys. Go smoke a bowl if it makes your cataracts feel better.

This is very typical of motorcycle club busts. I represent a charter for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, so I've had some experience with this.

First of all, law enforcement doesn't need to let the Vagos know they have their eye on the club. Anyone who wears a three piece patch knows they're on the law enforcement radar. Secondly, I bet it would be very entertaining to see the list of evidence that was seized because it's typically a pilfering of club memorabilia, belt buckles and cuts for the purpose of garnering "indicia of membership" (as if any one of them would contest being a Vago).

It is very typical that the charges against many of the persons who are rousted tend to dissipate. Of course, the arrested get to post a very costly, non-refundable bond and deal with a litany of legal proceedings, the last of which is typically getting an order to get all of their belongings returned. This is a song and dance that has been visited many a time in the law enforcement versus motorcycle club world.

Lastly, and most importantly, I highly doubt that it is the Vagos who are behind the threats to law enforcement and damage to public property in the Hemet area. I have conducted a pretty extensive inquiry with respect to this and, consistent with the actions of the clubs, it would be HIGHLY uncharacteristic for the Vagos to undertake such actions.

Known to the charter and members that I represent, I also know and have handled case for law enforcement personnel (mostly family law work). I know how the respective entities think and operate. Interestingly, three piece patch wearers do not have a per se hatred of law enforcement. They deal with it on a case-by-case basis. It would be good to see law enforcement lose a bit of the folklore and begin to view bikers as individuals.

Anthony D. Zinnanti, Esq.
Law Office of Anthony D. Zinnanti

Are the reasons the police are using to justify this really legal??? Can police just start raiding homes and arresting people with no justification other than they THINK as a group these people are up to no good? Kind of scary.

The operation, during which about 400 officers targeted more than 70 locations, was successful because it let the Vagos know they have caught the attention of law enforcement officials, Hall said. Officers seized weapons, small quantities of drugs and stolen vehicles.

"They need to know we are keeping an eye on them," Hall said. "Part of the message we are trying to send is to let them know we know they are out there."

____________________________________________

The hallmark of a police state, right before our very eyes.

If simply being a member of any group can be deemed criminal without any pre-existing evidence of a crime by the member, couldn't the police use the same justification to arrest members of a union, political party or religion?

I suppose it's easy for the public to look the other way when the law is used to target is someone unpopular without evidence--such as a member of a motorcycle club--but what happens when it's used against us?

Anthony Zannanti hit it right on the nail!

Ok lets do the math 400 cops for 14 who aren't all charged "yet"...can someone just tell me how much my bill is going to be to pay these cops to do nothing but harass people?

The police force is...well let me not say anything further they might find a reason to harass me.

It really makes no difference whether it is legal or not. The police are going to come in if they want to. Seems anymore a lot of these cops have lost their view of the fine line seperating law enforcement and criminal activity.

"If simply being a member of any group can be deemed criminal without any pre-existing evidence of a crime by the member, couldn't the police use the same justification to arrest members of a union, political party or religion? "

Its a good thing this isn't how the law works. Being a member of any group, even a criminal street gang, is not illegal in and of itself. Read Penal Code Section 186.22, which defines the laws regarding membership in criminal street gangs.

First, a gang is differentiated from a union, religious group or whatever else because the group must have one of 33 listed crimes as one of its primary activities.

Second, it must be proven that members of the gang actually did commit crimes that form a "pattern of criminal activity."

Third, the person themselves must have committed a crime that was for the benefit of, in association with, or at the direction of the gang...or committed a felony while being an active gang member.

Perfect example of our goverement being out of control. Who's next? Union's, Church groups(laugh people, the goverement is already crusading against some religion's)!

"Its a good thing this isn't how the law works. Being a member of any group, even a criminal street gang, is not illegal in and of itself. Read Penal Code Section 186.22, which defines the laws regarding membership in criminal street gangs. First, a gang is differentiated from a union, religious group or whatever else because the group must have one of 33 listed crimes as one of its primary activities."

Well, D, Thanks for clearing that up. Now, let's just hope they don't add a 34th crime to the list when they want to justify the roundup of members of another organization that suits their purpose.


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