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Saturday, 23 August 2008

Detective Ron Smith filed charges against a Seattle Hells Angel in 2005, alleging that Anthony James Magnesi, a member of the Washington Nomads

09:06 |

off-duty Seattle police detective who shot and seriously wounded a Hells Angel in a bar fight at a South Dakota motorcycle rally earlier this month has clashed with a member of the outlaw motorcycle club before, according to court records, police reports and interviews.Detective Ron Smith filed charges against a Seattle Hells Angel in 2005, alleging that Anthony James Magnesi, a member of the Washington Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, had threatened him over the phone.Magnesi, in turn, recorded one of their phone conversations and gave it to the police department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), claiming it was Smith who had threatened him.An internal investigation was opened, and the incident was referred to Smith's supervisor as a training issue, according to OPA officials.The misdemeanor criminal charges filed by Smith against the biker were dismissed after Magnesi's lawyers played the tape for city prosecutors, according to Magnesi's attorney, Paul Bernstein, and court records.On a copy of the tape given to The Seattle Times by Bernstein, Smith calls Magnesi a "dirtbag," taunts him about suspected criminal activity — although Magnesi was not under investigation by Smith and has never been convicted of a serious crime — and tells him "you better watch your back."Smith tells Magnesi that simply "being a member of the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang is a ... crime."The detective also boasts that he's a member of the biggest "gang" of all: "It's called law enforcement. You got it?"The recording contains only Smith's side of the conversation — what Magnesi is saying can't be heard. Bernstein said the recording device was set up that way.Magnesi declined to be interviewed for this story, but gave Bernstein permission to discuss the incident.Officer an avid biker, tooSmith, an avid biker himself and a member of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, which draws its riders from police and firefighters, frequently opines about the scourge of "outlaw bikers" in a regular column he writes as editor of The Guardian, the Seattle Police Officer Guild's newspaper.
It is not known whether Smith's apparent contempt for the Hells Angels played a role in the incident in Sturgis, S.D. What is known is that, among an estimated 500 revelers at the Loud American Roadhouse early on the morning of Aug. 9, it was Smith who wound up in a confrontation with members of the gang.
Smith won't talk about it or his earlier run-in with Magnesi, and the Seattle Police Department is withholding comment pending a criminal investigation by a grand jury in Meade County, S.D., said spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb. The grand jury reconvenes on Wednesday.Authorities in South Dakota have also declined to comment on the investigation.The Seattle Police Department is conducting an internal investigation into the incident, and the command staff will review the use of deadly force in a separate inquiry.Smith says that he was "cold-cocked" by a Hells Angel and then jumped by others. He has said the assault was unprovoked and that he was fighting for his life with as many as three Hells Angels when he pulled a handgun and shot one of them.Joseph McGuire, a Hells Angel from Imperial Beach, Calif., was seriously wounded in the shooting.Smith, 43, was working as a theft detective in Seattle's Southwest Precinct in May 2005 when Magnesi called him from Lucky's Choppers, his custom motorcycle business on Airport Way South. Magnesi had "heard I had been talking about him" and wanted to know why, Smith wrote in a police report on the incident.Magnesi, Bernstein said, learned of Smith's inquiries through a friend, who had given him the detective's telephone number.Smith acknowledges in his report, and on the tape, that he "has no business" with Magnesi. Nor does he ever explain why he was asking around about him.Magnesi called from a blocked number, but Smith was able to determine where the call was coming from and told him so.
"Suspect Magnesi informed in a sarcastic tone that he knew where I worked as well," Smith wrote.
"Based on the fact that he is known to me as an armed and dangerous person ... and associated with the Hells Angels I took his assertion that he knew where I worked as a veiled threat."Bernstein pointed out that Magnesi had just called the detective at his desk at the police station: "Of course he knew where he worked. How is that a threat?"
"Armed and dangerous"
Smith's reference to Magnesi being "armed and dangerous" involved a 2003 arrest for assault in which Magnesi allegedly threatened three people with a handgun in downtown Seattle, firing a shot between the legs of one of the victims.
When Magnesi was arrested, police confiscated a handgun, a concealed-carry permit and Magnesi's Hells Angel jacket and patches — his "colors," considered sacrosanct by members — which were never returned, Bernstein says.
Bernstein says Magnesi believes that Smith has them, although Smith denies it on the recording. The detective says he wouldn't "want my hands on the filthy red and white."By the time of the phone calls, the assault charges had been dropped because the witnesses refused to testify. One claimed he was contacted by a man thought to be Joshua Binder, the Nomads' onetime "enforcer" and a member of the "Filthy Few" — Hells Angels who have killed for the club — and told not to testify, according to court records.No witness-intimidation charges were ever filed.
Binder and several other Nomads were convicted last year of conspiracy and racketeering, and Binder admitted to a role in the murder of a man who posed as a club member.Smith testified briefly at their federal trial about a run-in he had while a bicycle officer with Binder and another Hells Angel in a bar in Pioneer Square. Both men were carrying guns.Magnesi called Smith a second time that same morning, this time recording the conversation without telling the detective. Washington is a two-party consent state, meaning that everyone involved in taped conversations must be told they're being recorded.Bernstein acknowledges this, but says the law has an exception where threats are involved. No charges were filed in connection with the tape.Once Smith figures out he's being recorded, he tells Magnesi that "playing on the telephone ... is a crime."Telling a police detective that you know where he works at is a bigger crime, OK? Being a member of the Hells Angels Outlaw motorcycle gang is even a bigger crime."
Smith has been disciplined twice by the department. In 2005, he was suspended for two days for conduct unbecoming an officer after taunting fans at a Seahawks football game. That same year, he had a verbal altercation with a restaurant employee.In the first instance, he received two days off. The second incident resulted in a letter in his file.

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