Ex-leader of Bandidos rests his case

The former president of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club finished presenting his case Monday at a racketeering trial in San Antonio, calling mostly character witnesses.

Lawyers for Jeffrey Fay Pike called Bandidos members from the Houston area, the wife of one member, and a friend of Pike’s to testify in support of Pike's contention that the club is just a bunch of fun-loving men and not the violence-thriving toughs they have been depicted as in the past.

Pike, who lives near Conroe, is on trial with his former vice president, John Xavier Portillo of San Antonio, on charges that they led the Bandidos’ alleged racketeering conspiracy by directing, ordering, authorizing or sanctioning murder, drug dealing, beatings and intimidation of other bikers.

During the almost three-month trial, ex-insiders that include eight former Bandidos, most of them from San Antonio, testified for the feds that they committed some of those crimes at the direction of Pike and Portillo, or that they witnessed the illegal acts.
The trial has included testimony about attacks by Bandidos — or the planning of attacks that didn’t take place — on members of the Cossacks Motorcycle Club between 2013 and 2015, and three killings: A street gang member in January 2001, an alleged Hells Angels member in Austin in April 2006 and a supporter of the Cossacks in Fort Worth in December 2014.

Pike’s lead lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, argued that Pike never knew about the crime in advance, nor did he authorize them. And if they were committed, they were the individual acts of some members, DeGuerin has said.

One FBI agent testified early in the trial that the club uses charitable acts, such as collecting toys for children, as cover for its illegal deeds or to counter the perception that the Bandidos are a criminal group.

Natalie Courtney, the wife of Bandidos member Jason White, testified today that she is a PBOL — a Proud Bandido Ol’ Lady — and aimed to dispel the FBI agent’s claim.

Courtney, an oncology specialist nurse at MD Anderson Medical Center in Houston, belongs to a group of women called Benefit Betties that collects donations to put together care packages for deployed military troops.

That women’s group is not affiliated with the Bandidos, but once Pike’s wife, Heather, learned about Benefit Betties, she gathered a truckload of donations for the cause, Courtney said. She added that other Bandidos members and their wives have donated as well, with no fanfare.
“When anybody, whether a Bandido or PBOL, sent me supplies, there was no public tie-in to that or public acknowledgment for that matter,” Courtney said.

Courtney also said Pike made positive changes in the club, including doing away with how the Bandidos used to refer to women as “property.”
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Now, women “are treated with respect and dignity,” Courtney said. “I feel like I got a bunch of big brothers protecting me and have a family that always has my back.”

Alan Frost, a British-born Houston-area businessman and motorcyclist who has known Pike since 1981, testified that he never saw Pike in illegal conduct and that he was honest and trustworthy.
“Whatever Jeff said to me, I could take to the bank,” Frost said. “You could take him at his word 100 percent. He’s a straight shooter and that’s something I liked about him.”

Portillo’s lead lawyer, Mark Stevens, told Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra that Portillo will begin its case today and they will let the court know this morning if he will testify in his own defense.