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The Mongols motorcycle club has won its latest round in a decade long battle with the federal government, when a California judge found that a jury’s recent decision to strip the club of trademarked logo was unconstitutional.
On Thursday, February 28, 2019 U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ruled that denying Mongol members the right to display the logo would overstep the constitutional right to free expression embedded in the 1st Amendment, as well as the 8th Amendment’s ban on excessive penalties.
“We are ecstatic that the Mongols motorcycle club has been able to win this 1st Amendment battle for itself and all motorcycle clubs,” said Stephen Stubbs, an attorney for the Mongols. “The government has clearly overreached into a realm that the Constitution does not allow. They tried to ban symbolic speech,” Stubbs told the Los Angeles Times. Stubbs, a.k.a. “Bowtie” as bikers call him, is a member of the National Coalition of Motorcyclists Legislative Task Force (NCOM-LTF) and is legal counsel for the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs (COC).
In December, after a lengthy trial, a jury convicted the Mongols Nation entity as an organization of racketeering and conspiracy charges stemming from a 2008 investigation, and the ensuing guilty verdict thus allowed prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office to pursue a court order forcing the club to forfeit the trademarked symbol that appears on their back patches and other membership paraphernalia.
Judge Carter affirmed the RICO convictions, which could carry fines at sentencing in April, but his written ruling marks a setback for federal prosecutors after they convinced a jury in January to allow the government to seize the club’s patches and trademarks as criminal instruments.
“The collective membership mark acts as a symbol that communicates a person’s association with the Mongol Nation, and his or her support for their views,” Carter wrote about the first-of-its-kind findings, which have drawn national attention. “Though the symbol may at times function as a mouthpiece for unlawful or violent behavior, this is not sufficient to strip speech of its First Amendment protection.”
Joseph Yanny, a criminal defense attorney who argued the case for the Mongols, described the victory as a win for all motorcycle clubs and criticized the government’s attempt to impose “collective guilt” on an organization for the crimes committed by some of its members. “That’s never been the law in this country,” he told the Associated Press (AP).
Carter’s ruling is expected to be appealed and possibly make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“On behalf of the Mongol Nation I want to thank everyone that helped & supported us during our fight through this long battle,” e-mailed Mongols MC member “Rags” to supporters, adding that “Today was a VICTORY FOR ALL CLUBS! It’s not over but we will continue to FIGHT THIS BATTLE FOR ALL CLUBS.”
“Save the Patch” and Motorcycle Profiling will be among the many issues that will be discussed at the upcoming NCOM Convention in Orlando, Florida over Mother’s Day Weekend, May 10-12. For more information, contact the National Coalition of Motorcyclists at (800) ON-A-BIKE (662-2453) or visit www.ON-A-BIKE.com.