Mexican Don, of the Mongols South Bay Chapter, poses as motorcycle club members rally Saturday, March 29, 2013 at The House Lounge in Maywood in support of the Mongols who are facing a federal trial seeking to take away their trademark patch. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-Ne
PASADENA >> Convinced that prosecutors and a federal judge are intent on eliminating the Mongols Motorcycle Club by taking away its iconic logo, an attorney for the group has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to step in and remove the judge overseeing what could be landmark trademark litigation.
The appeal for help was filed by attorney Joseph Yanny last week. He wants Judge Otis D. Wright removed from the case for remarks and actions he believes show Wright to be prejudiced against the 700-member motorcycle club. Yanny’s motion also suggests that the assignment of Wright to the trademark case was somehow rigged in the district court, headquartered in downtown Los Angeles.
A motion to have Wright disqualified was heard in district court and denied. Yanny’s plea to the higher court seeks to reverse that decision.
“The instant criminal case seeks forfeiture of (the Mongols’) collective membership mark — the club’s very identity — which the government has been trying to destroy and/or confiscate for six years,” Yanny wrote. “Unless this Court grants the relief requested, the District Court’s erroneous order will prejudice of the First Amendment rights of hundreds of (Mongols) and irreparably erode public confidence in the judiciary.”
Although the trademark case stems from the 2008 federal criminal indictment of 80 members of the group including its then President Ruben Cavazos, of West Covina, it is separate litigation.
In the criminal case a federal judge ruled against prosecutors who sought all rights to the Mongols logo and attempted to remove it from members. When that judge died, half the case was reassigned to Wright. In recent months he has taken issue with the club’s by-laws describing a prohibition against criminal activity as “laughable”
“This is a criminal enterprise as evidenced by the admissions of same by no fewer than 40 people who appeared before me … This is a dangerous enterprise,” Wright said at a hearing in October.
Yanny’s writ to the 9th Circuit concludes those statements are evidence of Wright’s bias.
In a grand jury indictment of the gang, federal prosecutors characterized the Mongols as a violent and lawless criminal organization.
“Crimes committed by Mongols on behalf of the Mongols Gang included acts of violence ranging from battery to murder, as well as drug-trafficking offenses, money laundering, weapons-trafficking, extortion, and hate crimes against African Americans,” an indictment filed in September notes. “Mongols also frequently conducted robberies, stole motorcycles, and engaged in the theft of credit card account information as a means to obtain funds for themselves and the Mongols gang.”
Club President David Santillan, of West Covina, filed a declaration in February explaining the club and defending it.
“The Mongols Nation Motorcycle club consists of over seven hundred members worldwide. Our members include doctors, lawyers, professionals of all sorts, business owners, and loyal employees of others. I am and informed and believe that many if not the majority of our members were formerly members of the U.S. armed forces,” he wrote.
No hearing date has been set, Yanny hopes to present an oral argument to the court.