Members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club killed, sold drugs, and stole motorcycles as part of an organized crime conspiracy that constituted a "rogue nation,'' federal prosecutors told jurors yesterday in U.S. District Court.
Defense attorneys argued that not only were their clients not guilty, they weren't organized in any way that constituted a criminal enterprise.
Opening statements were held yesterday in the trial of 14 Outlaws facing a variety of charges including racketeering based on acts such as murder and drug dealing.
"We think that when you hear all the evidence you'll conclude the Outlaws were a rogue nation within our nation,'' Joe Wilson, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the jury.
Defense attorneys for the 14 men, many of whom are middle-aged and had long hair pulled back in pony tails, told the jury that the government wouldn't be able to show any conspiracy existed.
Defense attorney George Gerken, who represents David Hannum, 60, of Dayton, said his client was a fun-loving guy who loved to ride motorcycles. More importantly, he told the jurors that Mr. Hannum, who is accused of selling drugs, wasn't part of any conspiracy.
None of the defendants is from Toledo, but three are from northwest Ohio. Others are from Dayton, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Louisville. Overall, there are 38 people named in the 101-page indictment. The 14 currently on trial face racketeering charges. Others named in the indictment are scheduled to stand trial in July.
James "Frank'' Wheeler, the Outlaws' former international president, is the most high-profile defendant in the trial.
Wheeler, 61, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 16 1/2 years in prison in January after being convicted in federal court in Tampa of racketeering and other crimes. He was the Outlaws president from 1997 until his arrest in 2002.
Wheeler was part of organizational meetings in such places as Cancun, Mexico, Oklahoma, and Toledo to discuss drug dealing, according to the indictment. Mr. Wilson said Wheeler purchased one to two kilograms
of cocaine a month for $22,000 to $27,000 a kilo for distribution.
"Cocaine use was rampant within the organization and other drugs as well,'' Mr. Wilson said.
David Doughten, one of Wheeler's attorneys, said his client was an avid motorcyclist who was primarily "an administrator'' of the Outlaws, but with little power over what other members did.
"The association was so loose and so disorganized that what was going on, Frank had no control over,'' he said.
The defense attorneys attempted to separate their clients from the rest of the defendants. John Thebes represents Glen Carlisle, a 37-year-old Bucyrus man accused with another defendant of fatally shooting a man in a Dayton strip club, according to the indictment.
Mr. Thebes said the government wouldn't be able to prove the killing, and urged skepticism about the rest of the charges.
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