“I’ll take my chances”
The words I had just spoke reverberated around the room and bounced off the cold hard floor. My cuffs were returned to the back position and my cup of unfinished coffee was tossed in the trash. Clearly this was not the response the agents were looking for.
I was ushered to a waiting van and buckled in, then we were off. I didn't ask where we were headed. I learned long ago too many questions could be interpreted as panic or, worse, fear. I knew in all likelihood we would be at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles in less than a hour. The conversation was dry and lean as we spent the next hour heading south on the 101 freeway, sizing each other up.
I had made this trip back in 1986 and now, almost 3 decades later, it didn't feel much different... or better. Back then, I had not only beat the two agents at their own game with a jury trial and an acquittal but had outlasted them. Hell, they were just retiring and I was just getting started.
This time it was different. I had children older than the agents that had just arrested me. They were both young and fit and they were smart… but they had already made their first mistake... they had made this arrest personal. They were also building the foundation of their case on grand jury testimony from a Hells Angels club member who had been recently forced out of the club -- a man willing to tell them anything to extract him from his judicial responsibility. Before this case would be over the number of informants would grow as the wheels of justice slowly turned.
The sun was now hanging high in the morning sky and as the van dropped into the underground entrance, it felt as if we had entered a giant hungry mouth -- this tunnel into the belly of government. The sun was replaced by artificial light as the government swallowed me whole. One of the agents made a last overture as I was handed over to the US Marshalls -- “You’d better watch your back Christie.”
I didn't respond. It was focus time -- time to lawyer up and dig in. The Marshals threw a sack lunch at me and put me in a single man holding cell. After a short period of time the booking process began -- my number and file had survived from my 1986 arrest -- so things moved quickly. All there was to do was wait for the afternoon court calendar to start.
Anyone who has waited for serious charges against them to be read in an open court understands it’s a lot of pressure. Each second is painfully slow. Eventually time does pass. The sound of boots against a cement floor and a jingle of large brass keys signalled the Marshall’s return - it was time. Soon I was winding my way through the maze of corridors being led to a waiting magistrate.
As I walked in I was surprised to see four individuals in the court area… four faces I was not expecting and who, I would soon discover, would be my co-defendants in a six count indictment that could put me in federal prison for up to 120 years. More about that next time.
We all marched up and were placed inline in front of the magistrate. Reasonable bails were set for each one of my co-defendants -- not a word of opposition from the government. That ended when my name was called. The US Attorney’s approach was clear -- no opposition on the other bails to ensure he could hang it all on me.
My attorneys, one being my oldest daughter Moriya, put up a valiant argument. After both sides fired volley after volley, the judge ruled and bail was set at $200,000. It was the first time my bail had come in under a million dollars. I was ecstatic. I would be out and back to my wife and son by sundown.
The US Attorney would not give up so easily. He pleaded with the court that the judge had no idea what he was releasing back into society. He insisted the government would appeal and he moved for a temporary hold. The judge stated to me that he had no choice under the circumstances and he would rather err on the side of caution. A temporary hold was placed on my bail.
It was a dirty move but not surprising. At this point I had no idea when I would be able to see my family again.
Next week… betrayal rears its ugly head.