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Biker clubs claim civil rights violations by Vegas police
by Ken Ritter, Associated Press
Jun 26, 2012 | 1697 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Members of several biker clubs have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Nevada, alleging that they’ve been systematically harassed by Las Vegas and North Las Vegas police.

The lawsuit filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas alleges that over the last two years, police pressured a Las Vegas hotel and several bars into dropping scheduled events with members of the Mongols and Vagos, improperly detained a member of the Stray Cats, defamed a Bandidos member who was fired from his job as a paramedic and falsely arrested another Bandidos member.

“These motorcyclists have the same constitutional rights as anyone else,” attorney Stephen Stubbs said Tuesday. “If the police aren’t going to honor those rights, where is this country going?”

Stubbs, a tax attorney, said he represents members of several biker clubs. He characterizes the groups as fraternal organizations of motorcycle enthusiasts.

Terry Katz, a Maryland state police consultant and vice president of International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association, calls them outlaw biker gangs by their own definition.

Katz wasn’t familiar with the lawsuit. But, he said it appeared the motorcyclists were chafing at the attention they draw from police working to prevent crime.

The Mongols, Vagos and Bandidos each tout their “1 percenter” outlaw status, and is defined by federal authorities as a criminal gang. Katz said he was unfamiliar with the Stray Cats.

“When you’re dealing with organized criminal entities, and these gangs fit that definition, you have to be proactive,” Katz said.

Stubbs filed the lawsuit Monday, a day after a meeting of Mongols national leaders ended under the watch of hundreds of local and state police and federal law enforcement agents in Stubbs’ hometown of Boulder City.

The Mongols event was largely peaceful, and Stubbs said the lawsuit was not a response to the police actions there. Officers issued numerous jaywalking and driving summonses, and Boulder City Police Chief Tom Finn reported several misdemeanor arrests. Stubbs received a jaywalking ticket from a Las Vegas police officer who Stubbs identified as the head of a criminal intelligence and motorcycle gang investigations unit.

The lawsuit is on behalf of a group called the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs and 78 individual plaintiffs. It seeks almost $12 million in damages from the two police departments, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie and 15 individual Las Vegas Metropolitan and North Las Vegas police officers.

Las Vegas police Sgt. John Sheahan and North Las Vegas police Officer Chrissie Coon said Tuesday that they could not comment on pending and active litigation. Representatives of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association did not immediately respond to messages.

Police and prosecutors in Nevada and other states characterize the motorcycle clubs as outlaw biker gangs and point to violent confrontations with rivals, including the Hells Angels. Authorities accuse the groups of using violence and intimidation while engaging in criminal enterprises from drug dealing to theft.

In Nevada, clashes between the clubs have been bloody.

Mongols and Hells Angels engaged in a deadly casino brawl in 2002 that left three dead and more than a dozen injured during an annual motorcycle rally in the southern Nevada resort town of Laughlin.

Two Mongols were stabbed when members of the two clubs battled again in 2008 at a wedding chapel in downtown Las Vegas.

A shootout between Vagos and Hells Angels last September at a casino in Sparks left the leader of the San Jose Hells Angels chapter dead and two Vagos members wounded. A third Vagos member was wounded the next morning by a gunman in a passing car.

In Southern California, authorities last September arrested 12 Vagos members and seized weapons in widespread raids as part of an 18-month investigation led by the California Department of Justice. More than 40 pounds of cocaine and 8 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, along with a rocket launcher.
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