Press "Enter" to skip to content

Gypsy Joker racketeering trial now delayed for 2 weeks after judge in case tested positive for COVID-19

Published in 1%er News

The racketeering conspiracy trial for three members of the Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club will be delayed two weeks after the judge in the case contracted COVID-19.

Though lawyers in the case had received an email on Wednesday from the court informing them that a mistrial would be declared, U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut on Friday decided instead to delay the proceeding for 14 days to maintain the jury already selected and to conform to isolation guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She questioned jurors Friday morning to determine if they still would be available if the trial was postponed for two weeks, and likely to extend beyond the Thanksgiving break. All said they would be available, though one juror expressed concern about the impact on her job.

Immergut ruled from the bench that U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman’s positive test for the coronavirus did not necessitate declaring a mistrial. All lawyers and staff will need to be tested before returning to court.

If Mosman is not well by Oct. 18, Immergut said she’ll be ready to preside over what’s anticipated to be an eight-week long trial.

The trial was set to get underway this past Friday with opening statements before a 12-member jury and four alternates. Jury selection had gone forward Monday after Mosman tested negative twice. He got tested Sunday and Monday after his wife contracted the virus. He tested positive on Wednesday and felt ill.

The case stems from the 2015 kidnapping and torture-style killing of a former motorcycle club member, Robert “Bagger” Huggins.

Kenneth Earl Hause, 64, who held the title of the club’s national president for 20 years; Mark Leroy Dencklau, 59, who was president of the Portland clubhouse; and Chad Leroy Erickson, 51, are on trial, accused of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Dencklau and Erickson also face separate kidnapping and murder charges in connection with the killing and other alleged crimes.

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.

Erickson’s defense lawyer, Richard L. Wolf, had urged a mistrial be declared. “We think it’s prejudicial to begin a trial when the likelihood of a mistrial looms as large as it does,” he said.

Wolf and other defense lawyers also expressed reservations about Immergut stepping in as trial judge, considering Mosman has been involved in the case for more than a year. Immergut assured the attorneys she’d get up to speed on the case in two weeks and would be well-prepared if necessary. Further, she said the lawyers don’t have the legal authority to choose which judge handles the trial.

Prosecutors joined with the defense lawyers in citing their concerns about the close quarters in the 16th floor courtroom of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.

“We are jam packed elbow to elbow,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah Bolstad told the judge. “I’m uncomfortable in that scenario.’’

Defense lawyer Todd Bofferding, representing Hause, also said the defense lawyers and their clients are so close to the prosecution’s table that “confidentiality is a problem.”

“I’m not asking for six feet but how about six inches?” he questioned.

The judge said she’d welcome the lawyers’ ideas and would work to improve courtroom spacing with staff.

“If anyone tests positive you need to let us know right away,” Immergut told the attorneys involved. “That could change the complexion of everything . We need to take this day by day.”

Location: Oregon
Source: oregonlive