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Attorneys argue over Devil’s Diciples sentencing issues

Federal prosecutors argued Monday that potential life sentences are warranted for former members of a Clinton Township-based motorcycle club primarily convicted of racketeering, drug and other offenses.



Assistant U.S. Attorneys Saima Mohsin and Eric Strauss contend the ex-members of the Devil’s Diciples Motorcycle Club were part of a criminal enterprise that sold well beyond the 500 grams of methamphetamine they were convicted of selling, and that they committed violent acts, including murder and attempted murder, that should put them behind bars for the rest of their lives.



“The Devil’s Diciple’s encouraged drug use, proliferated it and supplied it,” Mohsin told Judge Robert Cleland in U.S. District Court in Port Huron during an approximately three-hour hearing. “Using methamphetamine was at the very core of this organization.”



Cleland said from the bench it appeared the government met its burden to show more than 500 grams was produced for sale and use.



Mohsin also said club members used whatever violence was necessary to dole out discipline to rules breakers and to seize the motorcycles of members who left the club.



“This was all about being the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to their law, their property,” she said.



The hearing was held as part of ongoing arguments of eight men convicted of various charges following two trials in U.S. District Court in Detroit for their activities associated with the club, which was based at a clubhouse west off Gratiot Avenue just north of Mount Clemens.



Five were convicted of racketeering –- under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — after an 18-week trial in late 2014 and early 2015 and one month of jury deliberations and conspiracy to make and distribute methamphetamine. 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. Smith, Darrah and Vandiver were convicted of various other lesser charges.



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. Castano and Rich were convicted on suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Castano and Drozdowski were found guilty of engaging in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, while Drozdowski was found guilty on a separate count of manufacturing meth. Castano also was convicted of marijuana trafficking conspiracy. The convicts have been incarcerated for several years, some since 2012.



Five of the convicts face minimum terms of 10 years in prison while Castano and Drozdowski face a 20-year minimum due to a prior drug conviction. Rich is the only defendant who does not face a minimum term.



All of the convicts waived their right to attend the hearing, which was attended by their attorneys.



The U.S. attorneys filed a several-hundred page legal brief on the issues that was sealed by the court. The defense attorneys responded with a 36-page brief.



Cleland said he will also accept legal briefs from the attorney or attorneys for each convict tailored to their individual case to determine their term.



Sentencings could be held by the end of the year.



In their counter arguments, defense attorneys contend methamphetamine was mostly made, sold and used independently from the club.



“Individuals were doing this for their individual gain or benefit, not for the club or the conspiracy,” said attorney Ryan Machasic, representing Drozdowski. “The fact that drug addicts joined a motorcycle club doesn’t make it an organized racketeering activity.”



But Mohsin argued, “To suggest methamphetamine trafficking was unconnected to the Devil’s Diciples is not a full reading of the jury verdict … or the facts presented at two trials. It was not possible to engage in the activity without the help of club brothers.”



The defense attorneys’ argument coincides with their overriding theme that the club was poorly and loosely organized, and wasn’t sophisticated enough that all the members endorsed drug dealing, violence and other alleged acts.



Cleland questioned whether an organization’s efficacy is relevant to whether it was a criminal enterprise.



“Why would an organization have to be a particularly good organization to be an organization?” he said.



Mohsin and Strauss said the amount of meth easily meets the 500-gram level. “The numbers very quickly add up to 500 grams,” she said.



Witort, a member of the California chapter, is accused of being a big meth producer for many years.



One witness testified she sent nine kilograms of a meth precursor, ephedrine, to California in the 1990s. The resulting meth was returned to Michigan and Alabama, the location of another chapter, by vehicle or airplane, Mohsin said.



Another witness testified that a group of meth-makers produced 119 grams to 322 grams, she said.



Drozdowski has been depicted as an extreme meth addict who ingested the drug as fast as he could get it or produce it.



Machasic also argued over the purity of the meth and whether a mixture of it with other products should be considered as part of the total amount.



Regarding violent acts, U.S. attorneys contend Smith, Darrah, McKeoun, Witort and Rich should be held responsible for the murder of William Bausch in 1995 in Indiana by another member. It was related to Bausch’s attempt to leave the club and the confiscation of his motorcycle. A second man died in the incident.



Attorney Robert Morgan, representing Rich, countered “mere knowledge does not make each member liable, doesn’t make each member responsible for murder.”



The government says Smith, Darrah, Van Diver, Witort, Rich and McKeoun should be held accountable for the 2003 “Box Canyon incident.” Witort 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, which threatened war unless the Devil’s severely punished the assailants. The men were left to die in Box Canyon, near Florence, Ariz., but were rescued.



An email sent to more than 20 members following the incident drew a congratulatory comment from president Smith, although Morgan said the email wasn’t specific and the beating was more severe than expected.



“They didn’t go to Arizona with the intent to kill,” Morgan said.



Mohsin noted while violence was not mentioned in the bylaws, violation of rules came with consequences.



“There is structure to the organization. There are rules,” she said, but also noted DDMC’ status as “an outlaw motorcycle club.”



“By their very nature they’re not going to follow rules,” she said.



Defense attorneys did not contest an assault by Drozdowski and at least one other club member at New York New York bar in Chesterfield Township as part of RICO.



Federal attorneys withdrew one witness retaliation accusation, leaving an allegation of tampering and an allegation of retaliation as part of RICO.



More than 40 people from Michigan and other states were indicted by a grand jury; some two dozen defendants testified in the trials.