COLUMBIA — A trial for five Hells Angels accused of drug dealing, illegal gun sales and money-laundering kicked off Monday amid heightened security around the federal courthouse.
Extra officers and police dogs from the U.S. Department of Homeland Securitys Federal Protective Service surrounded the Matthew J. Perry Jr. Courthouse as opening arguments began. The five Hells Angels from the Rock Hell Motorcycle Club Nomad Chapter face a combined 40 counts on 11 drug, gun and money-laundering charges. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
In an indication of how long the trial will last, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson spent two hours setting up a storyline for the Hells Angels dealings in drugs and guns. He also described an outlaw culture where members place the Hells Angels above everything else in their lives, protecting their turf from rival gangs and glorifying a criminal lifestyle.
They did this for greed. They did it for the money, Richardson said. They also did this because this group is a gang. Its a criminal enterprise the Hells Angels. Theyre outlaws. Theyre part of the 1 percent of society who do not follow the law.
Over the next few weeks, prosecutors will present a case where Hells Angels members sold cocaine, crystal meth, prescription drugs, pistols, a shotgun and a machine gun with a silencer, to a Rock Hill jewelry store owner whom they believed was planning to rob a major drug dealer in New York. That jewelry store owner, Joseph Dillulio, is a former New York Mafia member who was working as a secret informant for the FBI, Richardson said.
Defense attorneys will deliver their opening arguments this morning and testimony should get under way after lunch.
In discussions with U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie, John Delgado, who will present the first defense argument, indicated he will try to discredit Dillulio as a witness.
On Monday, Currie had strong warnings for the defendants, their attorneys, family members and friends after Richardson said a blogger was posting information on the Internet about future witnesses, indicating someone had leaked a confidential document.
Currie threatened the attorneys and their clients with contempt of court. She forbade the defense attorneys from emailing documents to their clients. Instead, the attorneys must make printed copies and sit with their clients as they are reviewed, she said.
The Hells Angels are an international gang with a distinct hierarchy, Richardson said. Club presidents call the shots, and those who earn money through drug and gun sales or other illegal activity must turn over a portion of their earnings to the gang.
To join the Hells Angels, members must prove to the clubs leaders that they are capable of living outside the law. Future members begin their affiliation as hang-arounds, who do menial tasks to earn respect from club members.
The next step is to spend a year as a prospect, who must follow orders, whether they involve legal or illegal activities. Finally, full members are known as full patch because they wear the name Hells Angels with a logo of a deaths head where the mouth is stitched closed showing this is a gang that doesnt talk of the gang or to law enforcement, Richardson said.
Richardson said a full patch member will be brought to the stand to testify but that members identity will not be disclosed until closer to his scheduled appearance.
The five defendants on trial are Mark William Baker, the Rock Hell club president who is also known as Lightning; David Channing Oiler, a Hells Angel known as Gravel Dave; Bruce James Long, a Hells Angel known as Bruce-Bruce; Thomas McManus Plyler, a Hells Angel known as Uncle Tom; and Donald Boersma, known as Brooklyn Donnie, who was a prospect to the Rock Hell club. They are among 20 Hells Angels indicted in May after a nearly two-year investigation by federal and local law enforcement in Lexington and York counties.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.