Judge Carter Refuses to Strip Well Known Motorcycle Club of Its Logo

A patch or logo defines an MC (Motorcycle Club) and to have it stripped is like having your name, face or something else that defines you. So to have the government say you can’t wear it anymore is something that you want to fight back about. They have. Some of you, may or may not have been following this Federal Court case of the US v. Mongols Nation trial in the Federal District Court of Southern California, however, we did give you an update on the trial in January. Judge Carter has given his ruling.

During phase 3 of the trial it looks like things may be wrapped up. Judge Carter issued this albeit short but direct decision today.“The First and Eighth Amendments to the US Constitution prohibit the Government’s request to forfeit the rights associated with the collective symbols. Accordingly, the Court DENIES the requested forfeiture of collective membership marks.”

An Explanation of the Decision

Federal District Judge David O. Carter issued a 51-page ruling on the case said the government’s strategy of trying to devastate the Mongols motorcycle club by confiscating its treasured Genghis Khan-style logo would violate the group’s First Amendment right to free speech and the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Mongols keeps its patch

Federal prosecutors have been trying for more than a decade to get at the Mongols’ trademarked logo, which they say forms the core of the identity of what they have called a motorcycle gang.

In December, a jury found the Mongol Nation guilty of racketeering, and in January, the jury decided the Mongols should be stripped of its trademarked logo in a verdict called the first of its kind, as they were
deemed a “Criminal enterprise“.

So, this decision by Carter has upended years of effort by prosecutors to weaken the Mongols.

But Judge Carter declined to order the Mongols to forfeit the logo until he had a chance to review their arguments and consider their free speech rights. “The Mongol Nation’s and its members’ right to express their identity through the noncommercial display of symbols constitutes speech subject to First Amendment protections,” Judge Carter wrote in the ruling released last Thursday. He added that the First Amendment bars the government from using forfeiture laws in racketeering cases “to chill this expression.”

Judge Carter further wrote that since the jury determined that the Mongols logo was forfeitable only on the racketeering conspiracy count, but not racketeering itself, taking away the insignia was an inordinate punishment.
What’s more, Judge Carter wrote, “There is no evidence that forfeiture of collective membership marks will lead to a less violent or capable organization.”

Carter rules Mongols keeps its patch
Motorcycles seized from the Mongols Motorcycle gang is on display during a press conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2008.
Ted Soqui / Corbis via Getty Images file

Carter wrote the jury found that the government “did not prove the requisite nexus between the collective membership marks” and the racketeering offense, but that the collective membership marks were forfeitable as to the racketeering conspiracy alone.

“The forfeiture of the rights associated with a symbol that has been in continuous use by an organization since 1969 is unjustified and grossly disproportionate to this offense,” the judge wrote. “To hold otherwise sets a dangerous precedent that enables the Government to target the associative symbols of organizations it chooses to prosecute for RICO conspiracy.”

He referenced past RICO actions brought by the government against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters over the influence of organized crime, and noted that the Teamsters’ still own the mark and the symbol is used by its more than 1 million members today.

The Mongols organization still faces sentencing on the two racketeering counts, and the government has said it could seek fines of up to $250,000 on each count, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 24, according to Thursday’s ruling.

Donald Charles Davis, who writes the biker blog “The Aging Rebel,” said that he felt Judge Carter’s ruling was “inevitable.”

“The government’s ambition was blatantly unconstitutional,” Mr. Davis said. “The government sought to turn symbols like the Mongols insignia, the club’s name and sentiments associated with the club like ‘Support The Mongols,’ into contraband.”

Judge Carter’s ruling was drawn from a flood of legal opinions that were submitted by academics, law firms and think tanks. He upheld the Mongols’ convictions on racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, and tentatively granted the forfeiture of the various weapons and property that had been seized.

Mongols keeps its patch
A seized Mongols patch and vest is on display during a press conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2008.
Ted Soqui / Corbis via Getty Images file

Yanny, the attorney representing the Mongols, said the group does not commercialize the logo, and people who use it must be members of the club.

“These are hardworking members of society,” Yanny said. “You’ve got everything from garbage men to drug counselors in that club.”

David Santillan, the national president of the Mongols, pumped his fist into the air as the decision was read before a courtroom audience that included several Mongols members.

“He upheld our constitutional rights, not only as the Mongols motorcycle club, but as citizens,” Mr. Santillan said. “A big weight has been lifted off the club’s shoulders.”

~And as always…

~Live Free Ride Hard~



Harry Potter

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