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Ventura County

Leader of Hells Angels Makes Bail, Is Freed

Courts: George Christie Jr., facing narcotics charges, leaves jail after a judge allows him to use real estate belonging to friends to post his $2-million bond.

January 10, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After nearly a year in custody, Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr. walked out of Ventura County Jail on Wednesday morning when a judge ruled he could use $2 million in property put up by supporters to post bail.

Christie, who will remain under house arrest until his trial on drug and racketeering charges, left carrying a plastic bag with his personal possessions. He was greeted by his girlfriend, Nikki Nicoletto.

"I feel great," Christie said. "I feel like a million dollars."

Indeed, $1 million was the bail amount set after the 54-year-old biker's arrest last February on charges that he allegedly ran a narcotics ring that peddled prescription drugs to high school students in Ojai and Ventura. He is charged with fraud, tax evasion, firearms possession, selling drugs to minors and the use of a street gang in a criminal conspiracy.

Prosecutors also obtained indictments against his ex-wife, their 25-year-old son and two dozen Hells Angels members and associates. Several have already pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

But Christie denies the allegations and his attorneys have fought for his release for months so he could help prepare for trial. They argued unsuccessfully for a bail reduction and took the issue before the appellate court, but were rejected.

Then they turned to his friends.

Four men and one woman--all with ties to the Hells Angels--offered equity in their homes and other real estate for use as bail.

During a series of recent hearings, prosecutors raised concerns about the source of money behind those properties. But Superior Court Judge Barry Klopfer concluded all the real estate was obtained legitimately and he allowed the defense to use it for bail.

On Wednesday, defense attorneys presented title reports and promissory notes for 10 properties pledged toward Christie's $2-million bond.

By law, Christie was required to put up twice the amount of bail because he secured the bond with property instead of cash. The defense was required to turn over documentation verifying the value of the properties at Wednesday's hearing.

Satisfied with the documentation, Klopfer ordered Christie released--with conditions.

Christie must remain under house arrest in his Ventura residence.

He is also being equipped with an electronic monitoring bracelet and will only be allowed to leave home for court appearances.

Additional bail conditions require that he surrender his passport, submit to random police searches and have no contact with Hells Angels members or associates.

Defense attorney Patrick Reardon said in court that his client was prepared to comply, but he indicated that the defense may seek a future hearing to modify those conditions.

Outside the courtroom, Reardon said Christie was "ecstatic" to finally be released after 11 months behind bars and was eager to see his elderly mother, Georgia, who is gravely ill.

Christie and his lawyers will now turn their attention to the criminal case and potential negotiations with the district attorney's office, Reardon said.

"George Christie doesn't sell drugs to schoolchildren, I can tell you that," the attorney said. "Now he is out. Now he can help his defense team address the charges against him."

*

Times photographer Anne Cusack contributed to this report.

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