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Federal judge rejects bid to seize Mongols' name and logo

Prosecutors had sought to strip the motorcycle gang of its identifiers as part of a 2008 criminal indictment. The judge says the government has no right to seize property from unindicted members of the gang.

July 01, 2011|By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
  • The Mongols' logo was targeted by federal prosecutors.
The Mongols' logo was targeted by federal prosecutors. (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

A federal judge has rejected a bid by prosecutors to seize the Mongols motorcycle gang's name and trademarked logo of a ponytailed man riding a chopper, according to a ruling made public Thursday.

Prosecutors sought to strip the notorious gang of its name and logo as part of a sweeping criminal indictment three years ago that accused 79 Mongols members from six states of murder, assault, drug trafficking and robbery.

Prosecutors asked the judge to bar Mongol members from using, distributing or wearing the name and logo, arguing that they were very closely associated with the gang and that removing them would prevent the Mongols from operating.

In an eight-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said he "regrettably" ruled in favor of the Mongols, in part, because the government had no right to seize property from unindicted members of the gang.

George Steele, the attorney representing the Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club, said he was "suitably pleased" with the decision.

"We felt strongly the law was on our side, but it's difficult to impossible to predict the outcome of hotly contested legal issues," Steele said. "But we felt our position was supported by the law, and apparently the court agreed."

The U.S. attorney's office had no comment on the ruling.

In 2008, a different judge issued an injunction that blocked Mongol members from wearing the logo, and a number of Mongol items were seized nationwide. Last year, Wright issued a preliminary order of forfeiture, but later concluded that his order was "premature" and withdrew it. Wright issued a final ruling on the matter Tuesday.

The Mongols were formed in the 1970s by Latinos who were reportedly rejected by the Hells Angels. Though primarily centered in Southern California, at the time of the 2008 indictment, the Mongols had between 500 and 600 members who operated across the United States, Canada and Mexico, authorities said.

katherine.mather@latimes.com

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