Federal attorneys who prosecuted Devil’s Diciples Motorcycle Club members are asking a judge to attach a life-in-prison drug felony with the members’ racketeering-conspiracy convictions to double the potential suggested sentence to at least 16 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Saima Mohsin and Eric Straus in legal briefs argue that since the members, as part of the conspiracy, trafficked in 500 grams of methamphetamine, which is a life offense, they should be sentenced as such, not as convicts of racketeering conspiracy, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The federal lawyers say Judge Robert Cleland can do that based on federal law that says “the maximum sentence that may be imposed is 20 years unless the jury finds that a defendant committed a predicate act that carries the possibility of a life sentence.”
The Devil’s Diciples Motorcycle Club logo PHOTO FROM FACEBOOK
Mohsin and Straus argue the production and distribution of methamphetamine, and to a lesser extent marijuana, were instrumental to the club’s activities and survival. They contend the DDMC was involved in trafficking of 15 kilograms of drugs, an allegation that also could heighten the sentencing guideline range from its lowest possible level of eight to 10 years behind bars to a range of 16 to 20 years, or higher.
“Evidence (at the trial) showed dozens of DDMC members were involved in methamphetamine trafficking for over 30 years; the DDMC parties were not complete without the drug,” the federal lawyers say. “Large drug distributors (in the club)…, ‘kicked up’ to the national leadership the proceeds from their drug sales; paid tax and other clubhouse bills; supplied, at little or no cost, drugs for members to use; or enriched the club and its members with proceeds from (drug production).”
Eight members of the DDMC were convicted of various charges in 2015 following two trials in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Five were convicted of racketeering after an 18-week trial in late 2014 and early 2015 and one month of jury deliberations. They were DDMC president Jeff “Fat Dog” Smith of Mount Clemens, vice president Paul “Pauli” Darrah of Macomb Township, Dale “Gun Control” Vandiver of Alabama, Vincent “Holiday” Witort of California and Patrick “Magoo” Mckeoun of Alabama, all of whom are in their 50s or 60s.
Following a second trial in late 2015, Victor “Vic” Castano of Warren, Michael “Tatu” Rich, of Anniston, Ala., and David “D” Drozdowski of Fair Haven, were convicted of racketeering.
Some of the defendants were also convicted of other charges.
Twenty-five DDMC members or prospective members testified against the defendants at one or both of the trials.
The defendants argue in a countering legal brief that Judge Cleland cannot engage in “judicial fact-finding” because the juries that convicted the men did not specify how much drug activity each defendant was involved in. The judge, in fact, denied the defense’s request for the jury to provide specific amounts.
“The court would be well-advised not to be misled by government arguments to push the guidelines through the roof,” the defense attorneys say in a brief penned by Ryan Machasic, a Mount Clemens-based attorney for one of the defendants.
Each of the defendants’ role in drug trafficking has not been determined “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Machasic wrote.
“The Supreme Court found that increasing either the maximum sentence or applying a mandatory minimum sentence, based on judicial fact-finding, violated a defendant’s due-process rights and right to a jury trial under the Constitution,” Machasic contends.
Machasic also notes that sentencing guideline ranges being advisory, not mandatory, is not a “panacea for the recognized constitutional defects.”
In their arguments, federal attorneys also try to connect the defendant to many other acts –- including murder, kidnapping, extortion, assault and obstruction of justice –- committed by club members, even if the individual defendants were not directly involved in many of them.
“The distribution of drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine are within the scope of the jointly taken criminal activity defendants agreed to commit when each joined and maintained his membership in the DDMC,” the federal attorneys say.
But Machasic wrote in response: “That a defendant is aware of the overall scope of a larger conspiracy is insufficient to hold him accountable for activities of the whole operation.”
In a related matter, Darrah’s attorney, Patricia Maceroni, said Wednesday she may seek her client’s release from custody due to failing health. She said Darrah has been unable to receive sufficient care while in custody of U.S. Marshals and could benefit from outside medical professionals. His health problems stem from a blood-clotting disorder that he has had for many years, she said.
“Paul is not doing well,” she said. “He is not getting the medical attention or testing he is supposed to. He doesn’t have the access to medical professionals that he had outside.”She said he was moved from the Wayne County Jail to a facility near Toledo, Ohio, with which the federal government contracts, where his care improved but still is not good enough, she said.Darrah and his co-defendants have been in custody about four years.
The DDMC’s national headquarters, according to federal attorneys, is located on Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township, near the north Mount Clemens border. The club also had chapters in Michigan and several other states. The feds say the club has not been dissolved, and the defendants’ have not relinquished their pledge to the organization.