SEATTLE – A federal prosecutor asked jurors Monday to pierce the code of silence surrounding the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and hold four of its members responsible for crimes ranging from trafficking in stolen Harley-Davidsons to assault and murder.
“In a culture of no snitches, if you don’t talk, you live,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lang said as he summarized two months of testimony in a two-hour closing argument.
Much of the government’s racketeering case against the Washington Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, founded in 1994, is based on witnesses who did agree to testify, though sometimes inconsistently. Charged in the 18-count indictment are chapter President Richard Allen Fabel, 49, also known as Smilin’ Rick, and Ricky Jenks, 29, both of Spokane; Rodney Lee Rollness, 46, of Snohomish; and Joshua Binder, 31, of North Bend.
Rollness’ defense lawyer also offered his closing argument Monday, asking how jurors could believe anything the government’s witnesses said. Lawyers for the remaining defendants planned to offer their closing arguments today.
Fabel is accused of directing others to participate in the crimes. The defendants each could face life in prison if convicted.
Lang told jurors that the Hells Angels name and famous winged-skull patch were sacred to the club’s members, and the two most serious crimes charged – a killing and a near-killing – were designed to punish people who falsely claimed membership. Other crimes alleged include bullying a Farmers Insurance office into paying bogus claims and chopping stolen motorcycles for their parts to make them harder to track.
In 2001, Rollness and Binder killed Michael “Santa” Walsh during a party in Arlington because he had pretended to be a Hells Angel, then rolled his body in a carpet and dumped it in a nearby ditch, Lang said. Walsh’s body was found days later.
For the killing, Rollness and Binder received coveted “Filthy Few” patches for their vests, signifying that they had killed for the organization, Lang said.
And two years before that, Rollness and Binder paid a visit to Leonard “Funny Sonny” Sellig for claiming to be a Hells Angel, Lang said. Sellig, who had once been a motorcycle gang member, was just “an old man trying to relive his glory years,” but that didn’t stop Rollness from clubbing him with a hammer, the prosecutor said.
Rollness’ lawyer Todd Maybrown told jurors that investigators set out with the idea that the Hells Angels was a corrupt organization, then ignored any facts that would contradict the defendants’ involvement in the crimes – such as initial statements by Sellig that the Bandidos motorcycle club was responsible for his beating.
Maybrown asked the jurors to ask how they could believe anything said by the government’s witnesses, who included drug users, crooks, a porn actor and convicted perjurer.
Attorneys for the remaining defendants were to present arguments today.