When Jurors say: "We request that the verdicts for the defendants be set-aside and a new trial ordered."
Excerpts of News Coverage
The Tampa Tribune, August 31, 1995 By Avid Sommer, Tribune Staff Writer
TAMPA - Law officers targeted Tampa Bay area Outlaws bikers for prosecution based on their looks and lifestyle and the lured them into committing crimes, jurors in a four-month federal trial said Wednesday.
The jurors said they were forced by the letter of the law to find Outlaws' members guilty of government-created crimes such as trafficking in drugs and illegal guns. Several said if they had the choice, the majority of 13 Outlaws now facing long prison sentences would go free and the authorities would be jailed in their place.
"If I would of been given the right to not only judge the facts in this case, but also the law and the actions taken by the government, the prosecutor, local and federal law enforcement officers connected in this case would be jailed and not the defendants," juror Patrick L. McNeil wrote in an open letter to the news media.
"I think the government over-stepped its bounds," said juror Charles Destro. "It really didn't wash with a bunch of us. Why didn't the government leave them alone and catch the Outlaws with what [crimes] they were doing instead of fabricating crimes?" Other jurors agreed.
"We had to follow the law [in reaching guilty verdicts] but it didn't seem right. It was reprehensible," said juror Melanie Williams. "I'm just completely outraged," said juror Kim Milyak. "I went home and cried yesterday. That's how bad I felt."
Jury foreman Jerry Hughes said all 12 jurors found some fault with the government. The investigation "certainly wasn't ethical, but for the most part was legal," Hughes said. He said jurors followed the instructions of U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew to put aside their feelings and follow the law.
"We tried to find our answers in the evidence,"
Hughes said. "It came down to a couple of key phrases in
the [jury] instructions."
United States District Court
December 12, 1995
The undersigned were juror's on the recently completed trial, 'Gary Beasley vs United States of America.' During the trial, we found ourselves disappointed and concerned regarding the actions taken by law enforcement.
We found law enforcement actions in setting up and executing the drug\weapon transports and officials a clear case of entrapment. The government presented us with no evidence that the defendants had ever participated in any prior transports and offloads, or had the prior intention of doing so. We found the defendants not guilty of the first transport and offload, believing them to have been entrapped with no predisposition to commit the crime without the inducement of law enforcement.
We did find the defendants guilty of the subsequent transports and offloads because the jury instructions left us no choice. If we had understood that 'the jury' had the right to find "once entrapped, always entrapped," been told "the jury" had the right to grant a jury pardon, and "the jury" had the right to judge the actions of law enforcement; the Tampa and St. Petersburg defendants would not have been convicted.
We do not believe that the jury instructions were complete or that the questions posed to the court were answered completely and made clear. If we had been given complete answers to our questions, the result of this trial would have been different.
We request that the verdicts for the Tampa and St. Petersburg defendants be set-aside and a new trial ordered. These defendants, regardless of their past history deserve no less than a fair trial with a jury fully informed of their rights and with complete and unabridged instructions. As a United States citizen, they are entitled to no less.
Eight of the jurors signed this letter to Judge Bucklew.
November 21, 1995
United States District Court
Your Honor, I have been wanting to write this letter since the day I left the court house in August at the end of the trial. I have put it off because I thought I might have a change of attitude but I haven't and it has been weighing on my mind.
I am appalled at the off loads and transports the government staged and I felt every defendant should not be found guilty of these charges. Unfortunately my understanding of the jury instructions did not allow for that and had I known about the jury pardon at that time I would have acted differently.
I am also very disappointed in the government's presentation of evidence. As far as I'm concerned hardly any of it was believable. The badgering of the witnesses that testified on behalf of the defendants was inexcusable.
I am sincerely concerned about the investigation and the trial, not only because of the tremendous cost to the tax payers but the toll it took on all of the people concerned. I am more frightened by what the government and law enforcement might be able to do to innocent people than I am of any one of the Outlaw members or non-members that were on trial.
I am also very unhappy with the thought that many of these defendants are looking at many years, if not life, in prison. Another unnecessary cost to tax payers for crimes that hardly justify this type of sentencing that should be used for murderers, drug lords, child molesters, etc.
I certainly hope that you will take all of this into consideration at the time of sentencing.
cc: Stephen M. Kunz-Assistant United States Attorney
I was president of the Saint Petersburg, Florida, Outlaw motorcycle club from 1991 - 1995. In 1991 the club bought a house in an African American neighborhood. We went around to all the neighbors to introduce ourselves and try to make peace before anyone got too upset at our presence. That worked real well, and one lady got the pastor for the church across the street from us to come over to meet us. She was also the organizer of the local crime watch group and with her help I joined that group and played a leadership role in it. We rented the empty lot across the other street from the neighbor for parking for our parties and did such a good job of cleaning up that they were happy to keep renting it to us. We often put on benefits for Vietnam Veterans and Toys for Tots, raising $700-800 at a time.
I originally joined the club because I love motorcycles, the freedom of the open road, and the brotherhood of the fraternity of bike riders. The club was made up of men like myself who were employed in various jobs, owned our own homes, paid taxes and otherwise were contributors to society. Now we are all in prison costing the other honest taxpayers the cost of our imprisonment.
A local Federal Prosecutor vowed to bring down our club. Not that we were involved in anything criminal, it was more a matter of our lifestyle being in conflict with what he thought it should be. They hired a confidential informant named Gary Deering aka Big Man. BM started out by joining the Tampa branch of the Outlaws and came around our club to check us out and made a couple of bike runs with us.
I was a subcontractor in housing constructionframing. I wasn't poor, but you know how house payments are, an honest working man can always use a little extra and I was looking for something to supplement my regular income. I was not and had not been involved in any criminal activity prior to this, and this was shown by the facts of the investigation after over 2 years of investigation.
The feds had bought BM a bike, paid for his apartment, paid for his 800 number, and set him up as a successful man. When he asked if I would help unload a couple of planes, I knew his business wasn't legal, but thought what the heck, I needed the money and since I didn't use drugs myself, or sell them, someone else would get the job of unloading if I didn't take it. In the month of March, I unloaded a plane.
Most of the load was actually dry wall powder, since this was what they call a "sting." The feds provided empty boxes for us to put the packages of "drugs" into, helped us to unload the plane, repackaged in the boxes provided, and load the boxes into the vans they brought with them. They busted us as we were in the hanger after a second "job" in September. They had hidden other cops in the hanger to wait while we did the off load.
I spent 15 months in the county jail, none of us was allowed to make bond. The trial took over 4 months and the jurors were out for three and half weeks before they returned the guilty verdicts. Within a week after the trial, some of the jurors had contacted our attorneys to complain about the unfairness of the trial.
Debbie Davis, a dear friend helped us to get lawyers and keep in contact with folks in the outside while we rotted in the county jail awaiting trial. Debbie attended the trial, and thought that the jurors were disappointed with the trial. Her suspicions were right. She attempted to interest 60 Minutes, 20/20, and Dateline for coverage. They didn't respond.
I was sentenced to 126 months incarceration, and five years of supervised release. My release date is set for 2003. Before the bust, I never kept up with politics, I never gave much thought to it. Guess I learned a lesson there.
Now I have a lot of trouble trusting people. All of us in the club stuck together except one brother who testified about some guns at the trial. He was lying, trying to get a deal for himself, and the lies were revealed at trial and we were found innocent of the gun charges in spite of his testimony.
Prison has changed me, not for the better. I never liked our government officials, now they have treated me as a mortal enemy and it hurts. We weren't involved in any criminal activity of any kind before the government came to us to entrap us into off loading the drugs from their plane.
I hope that all of you out there can see that with the government acting like this, setting people up to commit crimes that they would not otherwise commit, sending undercover agents into our fraternity of bike riders, lying on the witness stand at trial, sentencing us to more time for their fake drug crime them we would get for murder, I hope people see just how vulnerable we all are to this. We better change it before we're all in prison.
Steve Lank, Prisoner of the Drug War