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Saturday, 21 June 2008

The leader of Oregon's Mongols Motorcycle Club Justin "Mooch" DeLoretto guilty of reckless driving

07:11 |

The leader of Oregon's Mongols Motorcycle Club intends to fight a prosecutor's plan to stop him from associating with his own members. A Lane County jury on Thursday found Justin "Mooch" DeLoretto guilty of reckless driving and other misdemeanor charges in an April 23 incident in which he was accused of trying to run two biker-gang investigators off Interstate 5 during rush hour. The jury acquitted DeLoretto of eight felony charges, including conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping.
At his sentencing, set for Monday, prosecutors will seek jail time for DeLoretto and then a term of probation. That would include a "no association" order barring him from contact with the Mongols. DeLoretto, who turns 27 on Sunday and has "Mongols" tattooed on the back of his head, set up Oregon's chapters of the club.
A no-association order for the charismatic leader would be a "huge blow" to Oregon's Mongols, said Eugene police Detective Dave Burroughs, one of the investigators DeLoretto was accused of trying to run off the road. "This guy's the brains of the Mongols," he said. "He's extremely smart. He's a good leader."
DeLoretto's lawyer, Kelly Beckley, said he would fight to protect his client's right to free association. "The state's attempt to vilify everybody associated with the Oregon Mongols, and to make them sound like some sort of a vicious outlaw motorcycle gang, is just wrong," he said. It was DeLoretto's intelligence, polite demeanor and compelling testimony that helped persuade the jury to acquit him of the felony counts that could have put him in prison for years, Beckley said. DeLoretto testified that on April 23 he followed two men in a Ford Explorer that turned onto his driveway in rural Turner. He said he did not realize -- until police later stopped him -- that Special Agent Jimmy Packard of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was behind the wheel, with Burroughs as his passenger. The two investigators testified they had driven to Turner to identify DeLoretto's home because he was a suspect in an assault at a downtown Eugene music club. DeLoretto testified he did not know who was in the Explorer. But he acknowledged being hypervigilant about unwelcome visitors because a story had appeared three days earlier in The Sunday Oregonian pointing out a potential turf dispute between the Mongols and the Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club. The Mongols' leader, driving a pickup, followed the investigators' Explorer into Salem, where it stopped briefly outside a house that once served as the Gypsy Joker clubhouse. DeLoretto then followed the SUV down I-5, phoning other Mongols and their associates to join him. DeLoretto, who tailgated the Explorer, was soon joined by compatriots in other vehicles, two of whom flanked both sides of Packard's government SUV. The confrontation escalated when a 24-year-old Mongols "hangaround" named Matthew A. Weiss swerved his pickup in front of the Explorer.
Packard veered out of Weiss' way, hit his siren and activated his emergency lights. A swarm of Eugene police cruisers soon arrived. Weiss later pleaded guilty to coercion and drew a 30-day jail term. A prospective Mongols member, 22-year-old Nathan A. Cassidy, drew 90 days for reckless driving and unlawful use of a weapon -- his vehicle. Both were forbidden from associating with the Mongols.
Police describe the California-based Mongols, with chapters scattered across North America, as one of the nation's most violent outlaw motorcycle gangs. The Mongols have fought a bloody turf war with the rival Hells Angels since the 1970s, an enmity that erupted in a 2002 riot at a Laughlin, Nev., casino. The melee left two Angels and a Mongol dead.
DeLoretto's twin brother, Jeremy, is filling in as acting president of the Mongols' Oregon chapters. He said his brother's trial seemed less about his actions than his association with the Mongols.
"If this was a regular citizen and not a Mongol," he said, "none of these charges would have stuck."

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Anonymous said...

Live by the sword, die by the sword.



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