Strategically, the team and I wanted to learn as much as possible about the US Attorney as well as Judge Nguyen. However at this point the investigation was raising more questions than answers. I came to the conclusion we had enough information. All further insight would be through direct experience. We refocused and put full attention to my defense.
The move to general population was a benefit to me and my legal team as well. Ask any attorney that has a client in the SHU and they will tell you it can take hours to get a contact attorney client visit -- only to be shuffled out, with no warning, if a security issue arises. We needed to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Over the next few weeks, as my bail hearing inched closer, my legal team and I worked diligently to make up for lost time. A full team meeting was set up with with my two attorneys, one my oldest daughter Moriya, our investigator and our paralegal. It was our first meeting all together. We all sat in silence, as if some unspoken doom loomed in the distance. My attorney, Mike, was charged with taking the lead with the team but it was Moriya who broke the silence.
She had a question about one of the younger members. She stated his name aloud. It was more than familiar. This was a young club member I had taken a special interest in over the years. I had watched the kid grow up in the beach area of Ventura. Tall and handsome, he was quite popular especially with the ladies. This kid was part of the the new breed of outlaws - younger guys that were bringing new ways of talking and dressing. These guys would be leading the outlaw bike culture into the new century.
She asked “Can he hurt you?” My stomach twisted into knots - I knew what was coming next. I had misjudged his strength and loyalty. He was no longer a friend or a brother. He was informant #2.
Now this guy wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed but his loyalty had never come in question with me or any of the members. We had shared many cross country trips and logged many miles together but in the end, the bonds we shared meant nothing when the Feds put the pressure on him.
He had been arrested a few months before me. His crime unrelated to the crime I was now facing. Tactical as ever, the Feds real motivation for his arrest became clear. They knew exactly what they wanted. They took their time and pounced when the target seemed weak. I guess the thought of spending decades in a federal prison was just too much for his constitution. He buckled under the pressure and took the easy way out -- agreeing to testify against me.
For years, the rumor on the street was that there would only be one tattoo shop in the City of Ventura. Was there any truth to that? Yes, there was -- but we’ll go into that story another day. Back to the matter at hand…
At the end of the 90’s, tattoos had reached a historical level of popularity. Shops were springing up everywhere, on every corner and Ventura was no different. But the shops that came in just up the street from the Ink House - those were different. I had a real bad feeling about them from the start. Those two shops were a set up. I shared my concerns with Ventura club members in personal conversations and in the weekly club meetings. My advice, to all who would listen, was to stand down and stay away.
My position was supported by police report statements from several witness interviews. Informant #2's statement also affirmed that I had clearly stated "for everyone to stay away." But then an addendum was added - an afterthought I wondered? This addendum was the crux of the problem for me. The addendum statement was "...but I knew what he was thinking." That's what the government hung their hat on.
I sat in silence looking at my legal team. In an effort to lighten things up I blurted aloud, “I'll be damned!! I didn't know he could read my mind.” The laughter felt good but it was obvious we had a rough road ahead of us. We spent the next hour discussing potential strategies that would change over and again as the Feds slowly released page after page of reports.
The time for this session had run out and after I said my goodbyes to my legal team I was escorted back to the unit by the guard. It was becoming obvious to me that the government was building the foundation of their case on informants. I was usually quite vigilant about the motivation of those around me and now I was on high alert. I had to assume there was someone close who was a source of information for the Feds.
As I entered the unit and made my way to my cell (my strange sanctuary in all this madness), I made a quick assessment of each inmate I passed. I took a moment and observed Charlie, he was in his usual reading position. He looked up and over his book and asked in general conversation, “How did it go?” The hair on the back of my neck raised as I processed his question. My intellect told me it was a reasonable thing to ask and that he asked me that question each time I returned from an attorney visit. But my troubled mind raised one red flag after another as I dissected every comment made. I chose to err on the side of caution and not talk about this new development and see if Charlie would be the one to bring up my former brother and friend, informant #2.