A mistrial will be declared in the federal racketeering case involving three members of the Gypsy Joker Outlaw Motorcycle Clubafter the judge contracted COVID-19, according to lawyers involved.
The trial was set to start Friday with opening statements before a 12-member jury and four alternates.
Jury selection had gone forward Monday after U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman tested negative twice, the lawyers said. He got tested Sunday and Monday after his wife contracted the virus.
About 80 prospective jurors filtered into Mosman’s 16th floor courtroom at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse downtown for the selection process. Five panels of 16 prospective jurors sat in the jury box and were questioned at a time.
About a dozen lawyers and staff were in the courtroom along with the judge, who sat on the bench behind a clear Plexiglass partition. He stepped away from the bench to consult quietly with lawyers in the case about 10 times, lawyers said.
All in the courtroom wore masks, including the judge, who is fully vaccinated.
The court recessed at the end of the day Monday. For an extra precaution, the judge delayed opening statements until Friday.
Lawyers involved in the case received word Wednesday from court officials of their potential exposure and the canceling of the trial.
They said a mistrial is necessary because testimony cannot be completedbefore Thanksgiving and it would be too difficult to make the jury wait that long.
Prosecutors had expected to call about 120 witnesses and offer 250 exhibits in the case that sprang from the 2015 kidnapping and torture-style killing of a former motorcycle club member, Robert “Bagger” Huggins.
Kenneth Earl Hause, who held the title of the club’s national president for 20 years; Mark Leroy Dencklau, who was president of the Portland clubhouse; and Chad Leroy Erickson were headed to trial.
Racketeering, kidnapping and murder charges are pending against the three in the death of Huggins, 56.
Loggers found Huggins’ battered body dumped in a Clark County field. He had a fractured skull, a broken rib, a broken leg, a removed nipple, nails driven through his boots, slash wounds to his back and face and many blows to his face, authorities said.
Dencklau allegedly ordered the attack on Huggins and others helped, according to another co-defendant, Tiler Evan Pribbernow, who has cooperated with the government and pleaded guilty to racketeering.
Other witnesses were to testify the defendants also engaged in robberies, assaults, kidnappings, and intimidation of potential witnesses to maintain membership in the club and to intimidate rivals.
Lawyers involved in the case are now set instead to attend a scheduling conference before U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut on Friday to determine how to proceed or schedule a new trial.