June 30, 2018

Attorneys for convicted ex-Bandidos leaders request acquittals, new trials

SAN ANTONIO - Attorneys for two former leaders of the Bandidos filed separate requests for acquittals and new trials, with both raising questions surrounding the testimony from an FBI agent they said was based on hearsay.

Jeffrey Fay Pike and John Xavier Portillo were convicted in May on charges of racketeering, drug dealing, extortion and multiple murders. The trial lasted more than three months and included testimony from Bandidos members, as well as FBI Agent Scott Schuster, who testified as an expert on the gang.

Attorneys for both Pike and Portillo questioned Schuster's testimony primarily on the basis that his testimony was "hearsay" and that "he was shown merely to be an investigator and a recounter of stories he had come across during his investigation of the Club."

Prosecutors said Schuster's testimony was specific to the structure, rule and operations of the Bandidos and that it "was fully corroborated by multiple Bandido members who themselves later testified for the government."

Pike's attorney even disagreed with the representation of the Bandidos during trial.
"The Bandidos Motorcycle club (link is external)is made up of men who share an ethos of freedom realized on the road, brotherhood manifested in shared gatherings, and enthusiasm directed at motorcycles. The club has autonomous, self-governing local chapters in Texas and 15 other states.

Not unexpectedly in a large and diverse group, individual members sometimes act up: they get in fights with individuals from other motorcycle clubs at bars and on the roadside; they break the rules of the club against drug sales; they mistake an ethos of freedom and liberty for one of license and violence," Pike's attorney wrote. "The Government wished to see the Bandidos as an entity in which the bad acts of a few members made criminals of the entire club, positing the theory of respondeat superior, that Pike, as president of the National Chapter had knowledge of (or willfully blinded himself to) the individual crimes committed by members of the BMC and that he approved."

Prosecutors said there was ample evidence the Bandidos committed robbery, extortion, racketeering, drug trafficking and murder -- all with Pike's knowledge.
"The evidence showed that Pike instructed Bandidos members to murder (Anthony) Benesh after Benesh refused to stop wearing his Hell's Angels colors in Texas. The jury also heard evidence that members of the conspiracy routinely used firearms to kill rivals, for example, in the murders of Robert Lara and Geoffrey Brady. They also heard evidence that it was commonplace for Bandidos members to carry firearms and take with them when they were expecting potential confrontation with rivals," prosecutors said.

Portillo's attorney also questioned the court's decision to allow information to be presented to the jury on George Wegers, the former president of the Bandidos who pleaded guilty to a RICO indictment in 2005.
"The only purpose of that evidence was to show that the Defendants must be guilty because they are high ranking officers, just like the previous president, who was indicted (just like these defendants) and pled guilty," the court document said.

But prosecutors said it was relevant because Pike served as Wegers' national vice president from 1999 until he took over as the president in 2005 -- after Wegers' guilty plea.
"Defendants in trial argued that the Bandidos chapters were autonomous and they did not know that other Bandidos members engaged in criminal activities -- this evidence undermined that argument.

To the contrary, that the National President was being charged with racketeering crimes supported the argument that Portillo and Pike had knowledge that the Bandidos enterprise was engaged in racketeering activity. Evidence of the National President being charged with racketeering crimes was a significant event in Bandidos history. And because both Portillo and Pike were fellow members of the national chapter at the time, it affected them both and certainly seems implausible that they did not know about Wegers being charged. Moreover, the United States later elicited testimony that Bandidos members, including Pike, obtained Wegers legal paperwork in an effort to educate themselves so they could guard against future law enforcement efforts."

A federal judge will likely rule on the motions for acquittal and new trial sometime this summer.
Portillo's sentencing will be on Sept. 24 and Pike's sentencing will take place on Oct.1.


USA - BN.


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