April 21, 2011 in City

Biker at bill signing may have been involved in killing

By The Spokesman-Review
Jim Camden photoBuy this photo

Gov. Chris Gregoire signs a bill to ban motorcycle profiling in the state on April 13. Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, dressed in his riding leathers, leans in to see the bill along with other members of various motorcycle groups, including Robert Christopher, fourth from left.
(Full-size photo)

OLYMPIA – One of the bikers gathered around the table as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill outlawing “motorcycle profiling” may have been a member of an outlaw gang whose conviction for killing a Portland police officer in 1979 was overturned.

A photo of the bill-signing, first published in The Spokesman-Review, has law enforcement officials studying the faces and patches on some motorcyclists who applauded as the bill was signed, then posed with Gregoire and several legislators.

Gregoire said she didn’t invite the bikers, some of whom sport insignia for outlaw biker gangs or patches that say they engage in illegal activities. Her office usually just invites legislators who sponsor successful bills, but signings are open to the public.

“We don’t screen folks. We don’t check folks,” she said Wednesday after another session of bill signings.

KIRO News radio in Seattle reported Wednesday that its law enforcement sources identified one of the bikers as Robert Christopher, who was convicted of killing a Portland police officer during a raid on the Outsiders motorcycle club’s headquarters in 1979.

Originally charged with murder, Christopher was convicted of manslaughter after testifying that he didn’t know plainclothes Officer David Crowther was a policeman when Crowther came through the door. The conviction was later overturned when an investigation revealed police had lied to obtain the warrant for the headquarters and lied during the trial; the judge said the case was so tainted that Christopher couldn’t be retried.

Gregoire said she’d been told that police “didn’t like the fact that (Christopher) was here.”

The Washington State Patrol, which provides security for the governor and the Capitol, was present during the bill-signing. Gregoire said she sees no reason to change security procedures for the events.

“If I let Mr. Initiative (Tim Eyman) in here, and all his antics, I’m not going to change the screening process,” she said.

Eyman was in attendance, and held his nose, during the signing of a bill last year that suspended an initiative requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. When Gregoire told him to behave, he replied that he was behaving: “This is my self-control.”

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