Hells Angels

Hells Angels/Vagos Shootout: Judge Sends Case Back to Grand Jury, Lawyer Blames New Times for "Significant Slant" Against Angels

​The cases against seven men with connections to the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club -- stemming from an August shootout with rival biker gang the Vagos -- were sent back to a grand jury on Monday.

 And, in an effort to have one of the biker's trial moved to another venue, an attorney for the alleged gangster blames New Times and other local media for creating a "significant slant against the Hells Angels."

In our defense, all we said was their aim sucked.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William T. Kiger decided Monday to send the cases of the accused bikers -- John Bernard, Kiley Hill, Kevin Christensen, Larry Scott, Michael Koepke, Robert Kittredge, and Bruce Schweigert -- back to the grand jury after attorneys for the men filed a motion expressing concerns about testimony presented to the original grand jury by a detective on the case.

"What particularly jumps out and concerns me is the detective's comments to the Grand Jury that the other gang was a family-oriented group and this gang was a criminal enterprise," Judge William T. Kiger said about the Grand Jury testimony. "I'm having a real hard time getting around it."

He's referring to testimony from Detective David Zavos, who, according to transcripts obtained by the Daily Courier, told the Grand Jury, "Based on GIITEM, which is the state gang task force information that I was given, the Hells Angels and the Vagos have had an oil-water relationship for quite a while, and it goes back in their roots in California. The Hells Angels are the dominant motorcycle gang in the world, and they also have a strong presence here in Arizona. The Vagos are newcomers to the outlaw motorcycle gang scene, and they are beginning to make [in]roads into Arizona.

"There's a few members here, but the Hells Angels are seeing that their membership is growing. ... The Vagos for the most part, are not a real aggressive gang. They are somewhat family oriented as opposed to the Hells Angels who are more into the criminal enterprise."

Both gangs are listed as outlaw motorcycle gangs in a 2008 Department of Justice report. So in other words, the judge has a problem with Zavos' implication that the Hells Angels are a worse outlaw motorcycle gang than the Vagos.

Koepke's attorney, Richard Gaxiola, also requested the trial venue be moved because of a negative public opinion of the Hells Angels created by the media -- specifically, New Times, KPHO, and the Daily Courier.

"After reviewing the above articles and comments correlated therewith, one can reasonably surmise that the media has consistently maintained a significant slant against the Hells Angels that has rubbed off into the Prescott community and potential jury pool," Gaxiola wrote in his motion. "Accordingly, in an effort to allow Mr. Koepke to maintain his constitutional rights...of an impartial criminal proceeding, this Court must permit Mr. Koepke to change his trial venue."

We're not sure if Gaxiola's ever heard of Altamont, but the groundwork for how the public views the Hells Angels was laid about 40 years ago -- not in a New Times blog post.

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James King
Contact: James King