July 10, 2018
National Council of Clubs
The National Council of Clubs (NCOC), dedicated to protecting the legal and political interests of motorcycle clubs coast-to-coast, is extremely concerned about an imaginary war between motorcycle clubs and the government, created in the minds of some law enforcement and government prosecutors, playing itself out in courthouses across America. This ideology of war has followed us to the steps of the criminal justice system, where visibly draconian security measures have been implemented based on unsubstantiated and ambiguous sources, even though there have been no validated examples of motorcycle clubs storming courthouses during a trial. A topical example reinforcing such irresponsible claims has been recently memorialized in a Texas District Attorney’s press release relating to the supposed and constant threat of violent retaliation that prosecutors face during biker trials.
Despite the absurdity of the claim that any motorcycle club would storm a courthouse or target prosecutors with violence, there are no consequences for these falsehoods meant only to perpetuate fear and reinforce false narratives about 1% motorcycle clubs. And, of course, these false threats are used to justify excessive security measures during biker trials.
This fear-based tactic has real implications. Inside the courtroom, juries will be biased against biker defendants because of the perception that their safety is in jeopardy. Outside the courtroom, law enforcement will increasingly treat those exercising the constitutional liberties of association and expression as a direct violent threat based on inaccurate information and training. Incidents of motorcycle profiling and selective enforcement of the law will likely continue at epidemic levels until a more accurate narrative is reported by the media, both grassroots and mainstream.
Texas – The Recent Battleground
Sharon Wilson, the Tarrant County District Attorney, issued a press release on June 28, 2018 (below) reporting that Assistant District Attorney Pamela Boggess has been named “2018 Prosecutor Of The Year” by the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the successful prosecution of Ft. Worth Bandido Howard “Drifter” Baker, convicted last year of directing a criminal organization.
Without debating the merits of Drifter’s prosecution, or the sufficiency of his legal counsel, the NCOC believes that the Tarrant County District Attorney’s press release further perpetuates baseless claims only intended to sensationalize and prejudice public perception against defendants and motorcycle clubs generally. Boggess is being recognized not only for a successful prosecution, but also for being successful under the constant threat of gang retaliation, a theatrical claim at best. The Press Release states:
“Prosecutors were the target of violent threats from gang sources throughout their handling of the case, and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn maintained an unprecedented lockdown of the courthouse, including deputies positioned on the rooftops, for the duration of the trial.”….”These gang members rely on intimidation tactics, but they find out quickly they’ve met their match in Pam Boggess.”
What gang sources? What information did these sources provide? Why has no one been arrested or prosecuted for these threats? Unfortunately, this “made for Hollywood” scenario in Ft. Worth is NOT an anomaly. Similar incidents in Waco and San Antonio courthouses involving enhanced security measures based on fictitious threats, with the same unanswered questions, have been widely publicized in the media.
Imaginary Threats in Waco and San Antonio
In fact, NCOC participants were present during both trials and witnessed firsthand the ridiculous security measures employed, again based on unsubstantiated claims. In Waco, the Sheriff’s Office constructed a fence around the entire courthouse and paid hundreds of thousands for extra security at the courthouse, and for personal security for prosecutors away from the courthouse. In San Antonio, a person was required to go through two metal detectors and have their ID photographed before they could enter the courtroom and sit in designated seats. Marshals surrounded the defendants in court, even when the jury was present.
The idea of using a tragic incident, whether it be a trial or a shooting, to advance a campaign of fear and draconian security, is not a new one. And it’s particularly not new in Texas.
An Example Outside The Courthouse- Sgt. Swanton’s Fairytale Fiction
Years before the mistrial in the first Waco prosecution of Dallas Bandido Jake Carrizal, Sgt. Swanton of the Waco Police Department declared on national TV, as nearly 200 people were rounded-up to ultimately be arrested on generic fill-in the blank arrest warrants based solely on their associations, that they had received credible threats that bikers had “green-lit” law enforcement and were coming to Waco to retaliate. 1 Immediately following the incident at Twin peaks Waco law enforcement issued a statement warning “bikers to stay off the streets because it was difficult to distinguish between law-abiding riders and those bent on criminality.” The local Harley Davidson dealership was even closed. 2 The Federal Board of Prisons, the Texas Border Intelligence Agency, and the Texas Department of Public Safety all issued bulletins based on these reports about retaliation. 3 But in the end, after the national spotlight had disappeared, authorities admitted that none of the threats of retaliation were found valid or true.
Law enforcement quietly acknowledged, but failed to emphasize, that these reports were based on completely unsubstantiated information provided by an unnamed informant. 4 Additionally, the alleged
informant lost all credibility and believability by naming a non-existent club called the “Black Widows” as the source of the information. “The Black Widows Motorcycle Club, while it might carry a looming scary name, is actually the fictitious group from a Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose“. There is no actual Bike Gang called “The Black Widows” anywhere in the South or Southwest.” 5
Furthermore, NCOC participants observed firsthand Waco PD and Texas DPS officers admitting under oath during the Carrizal trial that threats reported by Swanton in 2015 turned out to be false and unsubstantiated. But even after the Waco PD’s original story started to fall apart, most of the media that originally swallowed Swanton’s narrative without question, never doing their own investigation or fact checking, never went back to correct the record even though many were present during this testimony.
After the smoke and mirrors are removed, no valid threat of violence from motorcycle clubs against law enforcement or government authorities exists. An NCOC participant from Nevada with vast trial experience, including trials with excessive security issues, confirms that authorities have zero historical basis when he writes, “We have asked judges or prosecutors to find a biker trial where they have had court issues, and they cannot.” But the headlines have already done their perceptual damage. The outlaw image is simply too easy to exploit, too easy to sensationalize, and too easily manipulated to generate real fear. Fear in the eyes of jurors, law enforcement, the general public, and even other motorcyclists.
The Media’s Responsibility
The NCOC believes that public officials and law enforcement should be challenged by the media when they feed reporters sensationalized rhetoric. The media should demand an answer to these questions before irresponsible and one-sided messaging is used to generate fear and hysteria that has tangibly negative impacts on motorcycle clubs and their members. The imaginary threats faced by law enforcement do not exist. But the ability to influence juries, justify draconian security on the taxpayer’s dime, and perpetuate law enforcement profiling and abuse is very real.
Until that happens, grassroots media unconstrained by institutional control must continue to challenge mainstream media with balanced and investigative reporting. Reducing the use of one-sided media reports that reinforce stereotypes of danger reduces bias, and the probability of treating bikers as criminals, Media that counters stereotypes can reduce perceptions of danger. There is even evidence that “counter-stereotypic information can reduce or even eliminate bias.” (*See JOSHUA CORRELL from the University of Chicago, The influence of stereotypes on decisions to shoot, Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 37, 1102–1117 (2007))
Balanced media that highlights the positive contributions and attributes of the motorcycling community directly impacts the general perception that all bikers are dangerous. Beyond the inherent value of truth, reducing perceptions of danger can directly reduce mistakes made by police when dealing with bikers.
1 See “Bikers put out ‘green light’ against officers following Waco shooting”, Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle, May 18, 2015. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Total-arrests-announced-in-Waco-Twin- Peaks-6270189.php
2 See “Waco Biker Shooting Giving Bars Pause About Letting Gangs In”, By Howard Koplowitz, ibtimes.com, May 21, 2015 10:53 AM EDT; see Police want bikers off streets after deadly Texas shooting, BY LISA MARIA GARZA, Reuters US , Tue May 19, 2015 11:25am EDT;
3 See “Texas Oﬃcers Warned About Retaliation After Deadly Waco Biker Shootings”, CBS News DFW, May 18, 2015 6:06 PM, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2015/05/18/texas-oﬃcers-warned-about-retaliation-after-deadly-waco-biker-shootings/
4 See “Waco authorities investigate new threats from biker gangs”, Xinhua News, Houston, May 22, 2015. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-05/23/c_134262912.htm
5 See “A Narrative Of Convenient Paranoia – Waco Police Claim Threats From Non-Existent Motorcycle Gangs….”, The Conservative Treehouse, May 22, 2015. http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/05/22/a-narrative-of- convenient-paranoia-waco-police-claim-threats-from-non-existent-motorcycle-gangs/