BUSTING THE BIKERS

YOU'RE A TATTOOED GIANT ON A HARLEY. YOU'RE A MEMBER OF THE DIRTY DOZEN. YOU'RE TOAST.

Despite Robert Gonzales' sweeping allegations, only Wistrom, Ridenour and Johnston, the latter who is now in Madison Street Jail, face the lion's share of the charges brought by the grand jury so far.

Taken together, police say, the evidence from wiretaps, informants and the sweeping raids prove that the entire club is a hotbed of criminality.

Taken apart, club members say, the state's allegations don't hold up.
Perusing the indictments, club members note some apparent problems in the government's theory that their organization is a full-blown drug cartel.

Besides Johnston, Wistrom and Ridenour--who club members are not convinced were dealing drugs--only one other Dirty Dozen member has been charged with any sort of drug-related crime. Three other members face relatively minor weapons violations.

That leaves about 120 club members who haven't been charged with anything, they say.

Most of the indictments, they point out, have come against people who are not club members, some of whose names no one recognizes. Many are women, they note, who are not even allowed in the club.

Further, police have yet to actually turn up any significant amounts of drugs. What was described by police as "some" methamphetamine and marijuana seized during the raids, the members say, would make a trifling inventory for a supposed statewide drug ring.

Lieutenant David Gonzales acknowledges that, so far, police have found only about 20 ounces of marijuana, one-half ounce of cocaine, five ounces of methamphetamine and a trace of LSD in the dozens of searches they have conducted.

"I know there aren't an overwhelming amount of drugs," Gonzales says. "But what we'd like to stress is that, although our affidavit stated that [the club] is involved in drugs and drug trafficking, that wasn't the sole intent of the investigation. The intent of the investigation was to show that this is an organized group, this is a criminal syndicate."
Members of the Dirty Dozen also note that, despite police claims to the contrary, there have been no charges involving actual violence made against any club members.

There has been one allegation that Johnston threatened to beat somebody up during a conversation on a telephone that was tapped by police.

Basically, as police listened on a wiretap, club member Johnston ranted in anger that he was going to beat up another man for harassing his ex-girlfriend and his children. Police surveillance quickly staked out the supposed victim, and saw that no assault ever took place.

Johnston also has been indicted on federal firearms charges, for illegally possessing weapons even though he is a convicted felon.

If they are, in truth, the brigands they are made out to be by police, club members say, where are the drugs? Where are the people they have supposedly been beating up and killing? Where is the proof that, beyond allegations of a few rogue members, the club itself is the Arizona equivalent of the Mafia on wheels?

The task force arrayed against them, members point out, has now spent 21 months and untold hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing the club. It has pulled out all the stops and used all the manpower possible. And it is no closer to proving that the Dirty Dozen is a racketeering organization now, members say, than when it started its investigation.

Gonzales says investigators are still looking, and predicts that there will be more indictments in the future. Large stashes of drugs have not been found, he says, because club members might have been tipped off about the raids beforehand.

As for victims of the Dozen's alleged penchant for violence, Gonzales says, they seldom report their injuries or seek to press charges out of fear of further retaliation by the club.

Steve Tseffos, spokesman for Attorney General Grant Woods, said the office would have no comment on where the investigation is headed, or how many other charges might be sought.

But attorneys Thompson and Steve Hart, who is representing Kenneth Johnston on the federal charges, say the cops appear to be wheezing to the finish line without much to show for their mammoth task-force probe.

If so, club members say, why have they been targeted and their lives disrupted just so the police could indulge their hatred of the club?

"If they wanna pick on somebody, why don't they go down south and pick on those guys who are shooting each other, doing drive-by shootings?" says Jamaica Rick. "Why spend all this time on us?"
Chuck Martin, one of the charter Dozen members, says the police are still nursing grudges that date back years--to the mid-1980s, when a lot of club members were actually dealing speed.

If a few individual club members are dealing drugs, or whatever, the others say, then let the police prove it and send them to jail. Otherwise, they say, they're tired of being targeted simply because they are an easily spotted target.

"If they don't like the way we dress, fine. I don't like the way they dress," says Martin. "But if you've got all that time to investigate and all that taxpayer money and you don't have anything, then screw off."
@rule:
@body:On a Friday night in late April, the Cave Creek chapter meets again at the truck yard. Fewer than a dozen members are present tonight. Things have mellowed since the confusing days several months earlier, when it seemed like police were popping up everywhere the Dozen went.

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