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5 Christian bikers face gang counts

Prosecutors scale back charges against the Set Free Soldiers in brawl with Hells Angels, one of whom is charged.

August 09, 2008|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

Five members of a Christian motorcycle gang were charged Friday with a variety of felony weapons and gang crimes after high-profile raids this week targeting the Anaheim-based group.

The charges marked a retreat from Wednesday, when authorities arrested seven members of the Set Free Soldiers, including founder and pastor Phillip Aguilar, on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. An eighth member was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

The charges were in connection with a double stabbing during a bar brawl with the Hells Angels late last month.

On Friday, the Orange County district attorney's office filed just one attempted murder charge, against Jose Quinones, 42, and charged Glenn Schoeman, 56, with being an accessory after the fact. They were being held on $1-million and $100,000 bail, respectively.

Aguilar, 60, the group's leader and pastor; his 29-year-old son, Matthew Aguilar; and Michael Timanus Jr., 29, face felony charges of illegal weapons possession. They were expected to post bail, which was set at $50,000 each, according to their attorneys.

Phillip and Matthew Aguilar also were charged with possessing brass knuckles.

All five were accused of street terrorism for being part of a criminal street gang.

One Hells Angel member, John Lloyd, 41, also was charged with having a loaded firearm in a vehicle.

Additional charges may be filed, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Erik Petersen, adding that the Set Free Soldiers are a violent street gang because "they carry on a pattern of criminal gang activity."

Set Free members say they are a Christian ministry that helps rehabilitate ex-convicts and recovering drug addicts. But authorities maintain that they are an outlaw motorcycle gang.

In Wednesday's raids in Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Rancho Santa Margarita and Norco, more than 150 police, SWAT teams and federal agents arrested eight Set Free Soldiers and three Hells Angels.

The raids included four homes that Aguilar owns in the 300 block of South Archer Street in Anaheim, where authorities found multiple firearms.

The arrests followed a July 27 fight between Set Free members and Hells Angels at a Newport Beach bar.

Police said Set Free members stabbed two Hells Angels and one Hells Angel struck a Set Free member in the head with a pool ball.

Attorneys on both sides said the case will hinge on a surveillance video taken of the brawl.

Sandra Aguilar, Phillip Aguilar's wife, said after the court hearing that the group had been unfairly targeted by police, who she said terrorized the group's children and grandchildren during the raids and "turned our homes upside down."

"They cannot believe that we're Christians because we have tattoos and ride motorcycles," she said. "It's sheep in wolf's clothing."

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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