The activities of each Devil’s Diciples Motorcycle Club member occurred in a vacuum, not as a concerted, organized effort of the entire club.
That is the argument presented by attorneys for eight men convicted of various charges for their roles in the former Clinton Township-based national club following two trials in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The 36-page brief portrays DDMC as not very organized and contends members should not be held accountable merely because they knew the club’s bylaws.
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“It is no small or harmless irony that it is the government which has, by argument, given the DDMC more structure than it actually had,” the attorneys say. “The government’s one-size-fits-all argument is an unfair effort to extract as much time as possible out of those defendants who went to trial.”
The attorneys note that witness Jeffrey Arnold testified the club was “no brotherhood, like a bunch of wolves snapping at a carcass all the time.”
The defense attorneys are attempting to combat U.S. Attorneys’ contention that the men should face up to life in prison for the distribution of methamphetamine by club members and harsh sentences for other activities committed in name of the club. Racketeering, which was the most serious charge of which the men were convicted, carries a 20-year penalty. The government’s allegations 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.
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. They are all 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, who also participated in the first trial, were also convicted of racketeering.
Some of the defendants were also convicted of other charges.
More than two dozen co-defendants received plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify at the trials.
The men from the first trial have been in federal custody since their indictment in July 2012.
The sentencings have been delayed many times as attorneys and the judge sorted out how each defendant’s punishment will be considered.
Attorney Patricia Maceroni, attorney for Darrah, filed the legal brief April 30 in advance of a June 11 hearing at which oral arguments will be made in front of Judge Robert Cleland.
The defendants in the brief also request a “matrix listing all defendants, the amounts for which each is being held responsible, the calculation and the methodology for calculation.”
In addition to meth sales, the government wants to hold many of the defendants accountable for the beating of five members in Box Canyon near Florence, Arizona and leaving them to die there; a 1995 murder; two incidents of alleged witness retaliation; one alleged incident of conspiracy to commit witness tampering; and an assault at a Chesterfield Township bar.
Several witnesses testified about the individual nature of the methamphetamine use.
Witness John Pizzuti testified meth “was never put out for public use at parties” by the DDMC, and witness Anthony Clark testified that “meth transactions were with individual people, not with the DDMC.”
Karen Casey, whose husband was a club member and who was involved in meth production in Ohio, testified, “There was not a single production method used by DDMC members,” the brief says.
Drozdowski was a meth addict who “was more out of step with the DDMC, did whatever he wanted, did not listen to others and did not take the advise of others,” according to witness Lori Maday, who worked with Drozdowski at Cleme’s Pour House in Warren.
“The DDMC was a dysfunctional club in which people argued and didn’t get along,” according to Maday, the attorneys said. “They were not cohesive.”
Drozdowski at one point learned how to make meth but “made the meth that he used, and had no steady supply of it until he began making it, despite his association with DDMC members, witness Jesse Williams testified, documents say. Of Drozdowski and other meth makers, “each did his own thing,” the attorneys contend.
In the Box Canyon incident, the government argues six defendants –- Smith, Darrah, Van Diver, Witort, Rich and McKeoun –- should be held accountable.
Witort, a California chapter member, in 2003 participated in the severe beating of five fellow club members at the Tucson, Ariz., clubhouse because the five men assaulted and tortured a woman who was the “property” of the Hell’s Angels, a rival club. The Hell’s Angels threatened war unless the Devil’s severely punished the assailants.
The beaten men were driven to Box Canyon, dumped and left for dead but were rescued. Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin presented an email to several chapters from the local group that congratulated the members for a “good job.”
But the attorneys argue that the beatings “shocked” members. Witness John Altman testified he was “shocked” because “the five were to have their colors and patches taken and they might be beaten a little bit.”
“It was an unexpected escalation,” the attorneys argue. “It shocked other members there as well.”
The attorneys assert the email, which was sent to 20 addresses, fails to show a plan to commit a severe beating.
“The government touts a post-event email which contained no specifics of what had actually occurred,” the attorneys say. “Any alleged post-event congratulation is not sufficient to provide an order or directive to do all of that which shocked and surprised and far exceed (Doug) Smith’s expectations.”
The federal attorneys also want to hold Smith, Darrah, McKeoun, Witort and Rich responsible for the murder of William Bausch in 1995 in Indiana by another member. But the attorneys note the defendants are not being held responsible for other murders committed by members. The defense attorneys argue “mere knowledge” does not constitute responsibility.
The government also wants to hold the defendants responsible for a supposed murder-for-hire plot in which they allegedly attempted to tamper with a female witness, the mother of two brothers in the DDMC.
The allegation was not raised during the trials “and was never subject to cross-examination,” attorneys wrote.
“This allegation was determined to be ‘unfounded,’” after the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office and FBI Special Agent William Fleming interviewed a confidential informant, attorneys say.
Maday was told by Drozdowski to tell “Chico” to get the woman “to get the boys to stop talking.”
“Ms. Maday did not believe this was a murder plot and did not indicate to the government that it was,” the attorneys say.
Regarding alleged witness intimidation by Castano against Clark, the defense attorneys point out it allegedly occurred in 2014-15 around the time of the first trial, after the time period of the criminal enterprise.
In addition, a quote by Castano that he wrote a statement telling someone to tell his former lover to “shut the f— up and die” was made not because she was a witness but because “he was mad she was insulting his mother.”
“It is personal and has absolutely nothing to do with the DDMC,” the attorneys wrote.
Attorneys didn’t address a beating at the New York New York bar in Chesterfield Township by Drozdowski and at least one other member.