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A Criminal Case Against the Color GreenPolitical Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
After hearing the case and deliberating, eight of 12 jury members believed Rives isn't guilty, but that wasn't enough to earn his freedom, and the case goes on.
(SALEM) - Oregon prosecutors seem to be tripping over some awkward stumbling blocks in their case against one of two men allegedly involved in an assault outside of a Grants Pass bar last year.
Once again, it looks like the state is portraying an otherwise simple assault charge against an Oregon biker as an extraordinary and unusual violation of the law.
One question at hand is whether the prosecution's energy revolves more around motorcycle club membership and a man's affection for the color green, than evidence. The state's vigorous attempt at prosecution leaves a six year prison sentence hanging in the balance for an Oregon small business owner.
At first glance, and according to local media accounts, the case against Steve Rives, who is 58, and a member of an Oregon motorcycle club, looks serious.
But a closer look reveals what appears to have been a brief nighttime fight in a parking lot, from where the victim, who was left with a swollen black eye, walked to a phone and called police. Both Steve Rives and the other defendant, Shawn Haugen, say they had nothing to do with it.
Of course fights frequently take place outside of alcohol establishments, in most towns on most weekends, but this alleged sucker punch and beat down are drawing big from taxpayers through the extensive use of state time and resources.
If particular allegations against a detective's methods of obtaining a search warrant are accurate, then the entire case may be a wash anyway.
The defendant is the owner of the General Store in Murphy, Oregon. Defense attorney Michael Stedman, says rather than criminal, clubs such as the the one Rives belongs to, the Vagos M/C, really serve as a form of social service organization. Some clubs have had members commit crime in the past, just as members of law enforcement agencies and district attorney's offices have committed crimes; however in the case of motorcycle clubs, there is a branding effort underway by the government to portray them as criminal organizations.
Shaun Hall with the Daily Courier, wrote:
That in fact may be very close to what is taking place, and it is not the first time Oregon has spent a whole lot of taxpayer money trying to, and sometimes successfully, convicting members of clubs.
In a press released from the Vagos M/C, their Spokesman, Mark Schiller, wrote:
Viewed as criminal in nature, all of these clubs have members with no criminal records of any kind; in fact, the motorcycle clubs fill key voids in society; many serve as support groups for military veterans, and this is vitally important in a nation full of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The unity in and among these clubs allows for a great deal of lifesaving camaraderie.
Motorcycle clubs are also know for their tendency to gather toys for kids and participate in other charity activities. However in this case the prosecutor had very little interest in the good deeds, instead spending a great deal of time talking about the defendant's obsession with the color green, and anyone who has been around the Vagos M/C knows they are all about green, this seems to almost go beyond even the idea of 'thought police' - color police?
Mark Shiller wrote in the Vagos M/C press release:
It seems color may be an appropriate word for this story, as the Vagos have communicated some very interesting information about a detective reportedly falsifying information under the color of law in this case. Court witnesses say the detective was caught on the stand having falsified the affidavit for a search warrant.
It is a point that the local paper only to be worthy of a brief mention in the final paragraph.
A Small Hammer?
The prosecutors contend that the attack on the victim involved a hammer, which the victim called a "small hammer" and the Grants Pass news accounts refer to as a "ball peen hammer". While the newspaper writers and police seem to like this aspect of the case, the hammer matter wasn't mentioned or revealed early on, and the detective is alleged to have created that part in order to gain a search warrant. Advocates say documents that reflect this have not yet been released by the court.
No such hammer was ever recovered, and there was no blood evidence tying the victim to the defendants. Of course the inclusion of a hammer, interestingly described as "very small" by the victim during court proceedings, makes the state's case appear stronger, even if the item has not surfaced, and even if it was a small hammer, which piqued my curiosity, as it must have with the prosecutors. My immediate thought is that it is an unusual choice for a weapon.
So I searched Google as you also can, under the terms: "small hammer" "assault weapon" The pickings were slim. I found two "small hammer" crimes listed.
Of course hammers have been used to kill people in different crimes throughout history, particular during the Viking period, though they were of substantially larger size than the alleged hammer in this case, which in addition to being "small" was also described by the victim as being a "machinist hammer". I thought that would lead to more results, and believed it was in fact a broader search term.
So not only is the hammer weapon in this case invisible, but it is small, and not an item most criminals would carry. The one thing that is clear is that the Assault II charge would not exist without a weapon. I have not examined the 911 tapes, but the defense attorney says the victim clearly stated that he could not identify his attackers, the same men he later identified when shown photos by police.
The victim in this assault, Bruce Smith, is described as the friend of a former club member who gave testimony against the club in the past. Perhaps this explains a great deal about the prosecutors desire to press their case in spite of the fact that the victim told a 911 operator at the time of the assault, that he "didn't know who his attackers were; he said very clearly that it was too dark, he didn't know", the defense stated in court.
Outing of a Sex Offender
The story gets even more interesting when you understand what it truly evolves from. In spite of the reputation media and police heap on bike clubs, the 1% organizations in particular have rules and codes and they are serious. One is that sex offenders aren't allowed, it is a simple and straightforward rule that all members are aware of. In 2007 the Vagos M/C discovered that a member was indeed, a sex offender.
The member was according to documents, chased with a sawed off shotgun, which was not fired, and the club would not agree to let him take his motorcycle.
This is the 'huge crime' that the state spent countless hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing, rather than simply backing off when they realized it was to keep one more sex offender out of one more group.
From what I understand, the actions were taken in order to scare the ex-member and that he would have been given his bike, but not at the time he was outed to other members.
Attorney Lisa Turner, a prosecutor in the case, said Smith, "had the crap beat out of him". According to Turner, it happened, "for knowing the wrong person - a snitch, a rat"
After hearing the case and deliberating, eight of 12 jury members believed Rives isn't guilty, but that wasn't enough to earn his freedom, and the case goes on. There is also a second defendant, Shawn Haugen, who is 35-years old, whose trial is still a few weeks away. Prosecutors in Josephine County, Oregon say they will refile charges against Rives.
Once again, I see the swagger and bravado of agents of a government who rely on an uninformed public to react with shock to the motorcycle club aspect. A video produced by a southern Oregon newspaper, shows the prosecutors repeatedly waiving a Vagos vest around in the courtroom, with their colors emblazoned on the back. It was good advertising for the club but appeared bizarre beyond that.
I have written repeatedly about how the federal agencies in particular, are involved in a witch hunt against bikers in the United States. The result is growing unity between clubs and the type of solidarity that only oppression brings. This in the end will bring those who hate bikers little relief.
Past related Salem-News.com reports:
Articles for December 15, 2011 | Articles for December 16, 2011 | Articles for December 17, 2011