This was printed in the Lake Wylie Pilot on thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. Written by Larry O’Dell (not associated with this blog in any way).
Undercover agent testifies in Outlaws trial in Va.
By LARRY O’DELL – Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND, Va. –
A federal agent who infiltrated the Outlaws motorcycle organization testified Thursday that the group sought out a confrontation with a rival biker gang in Petersburg, leading to a brawl in which he was smashed across the face with a beer bottle.
Jeffrey Grabman of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified on the second day of the federal racketeering trial of Outlaws president Jack Rosga of Milwaukee, Wis., and three of his associates.
The government claims Rosga led a criminal enterprise responsible for assaults and other violent acts, many of them as part of a turf war with the Hell’s Angels and affiliated motorcycle gangs. Lawyers for the defendants have said their clients are innocent.
Grabman told the jury that he was working undercover investigating the Warlocks motorcycle gang in Baltimore before he switched over to the Outlaws, who were looking to establish a chapter in the Richmond area and keep the Hell’s Angels from gaining a foothold.
The job entailed assuming an entirely new identity, including getting a driver’s license and credit cards under a fictitious name, getting other agents to pose as family members, concocting a story about his background and overcoming Rosga’s trepidation about accepting members from a gang that had been infiltrated by law enforcement.
Grabman also had to obtain an undercover residence. The home in Prince George County was equipped with audio and video surveillance equipment, and Grabman kept his ATF credentials hidden inside a wall.
Jurors viewed and heard recordings of several Outlaws inside the home planning the Petersburg incident, then talking about it afterward. They were given transcripts to help them follow the hard-to-hear audio and blurry video.
Grabman testified that one of the defendants, Rock Hill, S.C., Outlaws leader Leslie Werth, wanted to make the rounds of Petersburg bars to find and assault members of the Desperadoes, a biker gang affiliated with the Hell’s Angels. They ended up at Cockades Bar, where a verbal clash between one Outlaw and a group of Desperadoes moved inside.
The next thing he knew, Grabman said, the Outlaw started hitting one of the Desperadoes. One of the rival gang members broke a beer bottle on Grabman’s face, creating a gash that required 14 stitches to close. Grabman said he pulled out an ATF-issued baton and hit his assailant, causing him to drop the jagged remains of the bottle and flee.
The fracas spilled over to a nearby parking lot, where the two groups exchanged angry words. Guns and knives were brandished, Grabman said.
“It seems it’s going to end up in a shootout,” he said. “Luckily the police end up showing up.”
The flashing blue lights caused the gangs to go their separate ways.
Grabman testified about other tension-filled, but less violent, confrontations between Outlaws and Hell’s Angels or their supporters. On cross-examination, defense attorney Claire Cardwell made the point that Rosga was not present during the Cockades fracas or the other events described by Grabman.
The agent also described finding a “Hell’s Angels supporter” sticker on his mailbox, an apparent act of intimidation by the rival gang. He said when he told Rosga about the incident, the Outlaws president responded that “the best way to stop that is put a cap in them.”
Grabman also testified that beginning when he was a prospective or probationary Outlaw, he regularly witnessed illegal drug use at the gang’s clubhouses. He testified about one prospective member finally “getting his patch” – the insignia that appears on the back of a jacket to signify full membership – and then being beaten by other members for breaking a rule.
After establishing the Petersburg chapter with the help of two other undercover agents and two paid informants, Grabman became a full-fledged member July 4, 2009. However, it did not happen without some scary moments in which he thought his cover might have been blown.
Grabman said the Warlocks posted a picture of him on the Internet after he helped bring their operation down, identifying him as an undercover agent, so he was always nervous about being recognized.
One time he noticed a woman at an Outlaws function he knew from his Warlocks days, but she didn’t recognize him. Another time he deliberately ducked behind another person when a photo was taken – a move that aroused the suspicion of an Outlaws leader who accused him of being a police officer but ultimately accepted his denial.
In addition to Rosga and Werth, the defendants are William Davey, 46, described by prosecutors as the “enforcer” in the Asheville, N.C., chapter; and Mark Spradling of Hickory, N.C., treasurer of the region that encompasses Virginia and the Carolinas.
Twenty-seven Outlaws members were indicted in June. One was shot to death as federal agents tried to arrest him in Maine. Fifteen have entered guilty pleas, charges against one were dropped, and six will be tried later.