Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Price of a Patch

On April 29, 2010, QuickThrottle Magazine received the first of a series of emails with the subject “A Very Concerning Situation,” by Paul Lemoine.  (Edited for brevity and clarity.)

"This weekend should have been a time for celebration for Downaz Ridaz, M.C., as we had planned to commemorate our first year anniversary of our Las Vegas Chapter.  Instead, it was filled with chaos and confusion for members and guests.

"Prior to the party, our club leaders took extra steps to ensure compliance with all the City’s rules and ordinances.  We were assured by a North Las Vegas City official that alcohol was allowed for consumption at the party as long as it was not being sold.  We used fliers to promote our free “casino-theme” anniversary celebration to the motorcycling community.  We offered complimentary drinks and homemade food to our guests.

"At 9:30 that kick-off Friday night, some 25 uniformed and undercover officers swarmed the gathering, ordered our guests to leave, and announced, “The party is over!”  These officers were from the North Las Vegas Police Department’s gang unit, S.W.A.T., the Business License Division, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.  At the time of the raid, another club member and I were directing traffic for the arriving guests.  The two of us were handcuffed and much later charged with “working without a valid work card.”  Several other members were also placed into custody while officers confiscated and disposed of all the food and drinks.  Club members were cuffed and detained inside for three hours while officers issued citations.  A few doors down, a man who stepped out of his business to see what was going on, was also placed into custody for having an “open container.”  He was drinking a Coca-Cola with ice in a plastic cup.  Gaming Control found no evidence of gambling.

"After hours of questioning, those of us that were handcuffed were loaded into the back seats of patrol cars.  No Miranda rights were given and none of us were told why we were being arrested.

"As officers were beginning to leave the property, a motorcyclist entered the parking lot.  As he approached, a hooded undercover officer – who did not identify himself to the rider – stepped into the rider’s path and ordered him to stop.  The rider swerved to avoid hitting the hooded man, and as the rider passed, the officer withdrew his handgun. With the rider still in motion, the officer reached out and grabbed him by the shirt, jerking him off his bike and onto the ground.  Several other officers rushed to assist the hooded officer subdue the stunned and potentially injured rider while repeating the order to, “Stop resisting!”  I witnessed the entire scene from about a 20-foot distance and could not believe what I was seeing.  I heard the undercover cop joke afterward when he said he was glad he didn’t shoot him, or they [the cops] would have been stuck there doing paperwork all night.

"Seven of us were placed into custody and by 1:00 a.m. we were transported to the North Las Vegas Detention Center.  A bondsman was contacted and by 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning, bail was arranged for most of us.  However, bond could not be posted because our files kept being shuffled to the bottom of the stack each time a jail administrator got to them.   Our friends and family called throughout the night, only to be given conflicting information.  No one would tell us why we were arrested and how long we would be detained.  By 4:30 p.m. Saturday, we were finally officially booked, and bond was posted.  Most of us were released at approximately 6:30 a.m., Sunday morning.  That’s when we discovered that we were being charged with violations ranging from “working without valid work permits,” to “operating a business without a license.”  Fines total into the tens of thousands.  To add insult to injury, policies at the North Las Vegas Detention Center require that confiscated monies be returned in the form of pre-paid credit cards which carry extremely high fees and make recovery of cash difficult. 

"The effects of these detainments have caused many hardships and jeopardized peoples’ jobs.  The club is currently being advised by legal counsel.  North Las Vegas has made it clear to the motorcycling community that bikers are not welcome. They may be harassed, followed, put under surveillance, jailed without reasonable cause, and held for the maximum amount of time before being charged.  If you wear a patch, you’re a target!

"What happened to my club – a family club – was a violation of our civil rights.  Please consider publishing our story in your magazine, as I believe these events represent a potential nightmare for any organized motorcycle group.

Paul’s report to us is well corroborated by in-depth interviews with witnesses, contact with one of the defense attorneys, online North Las Vegas Municipal Court records (sample), and journalist observations of court proceedings.

The rider that was jerked off his motorcycle by a hooded cop was the only person charged with a felony – attempted murder of a police officer by using a deadly weapon.  He ultimately pled down to a DUI and served 30 days in jail.  An interview with this person was not obtained, but there was no indication in any of the online documentation or witness accounts that his alcohol level was tested.

Paul’s original charge, “working without a valid work card” was reduced to “impeding traffic.”  His case went through four court proceedings from May 17 to September 29th.  Total fees and fines were $562, and he paid his attorney $500 to represent him.

The club secretary was charged with six misdemeanors:  failure to obtain (1) special event permit; (2) liquor permit; (3) food permit; (4) health permit; (5) advertising within city limits without a city business license; and (6) employing person without a valid work card.  Total fines:  $6,322.  The club president had virtually similar charges so the two teamed up to retain the services of defense attorney, Patrick McDonald.  McDonald defended the president, the secretary, and a third club-member.  About that third member, McDonald explained that “the charge against him was dismissed because his conduct had clearly not violated any of the provisions of the North Las Vegas Municipal Code."  As to the club president and secretary, McDonald stated "Some of the alleged conduct did not violate the North Las Vegas Municipal Code.  Other alleged conduct may have violated the Municipal Code. Consequently a plea bargain was entered into – between the clients and the City of North Las Vegas – that benefited both the clients and the City of North Las Vegas.”

The secretary took a plea bargain to lower the first four charges to “jaywalking,” and the fifth and sixth charges were dismissed.  Each jaywalking fine was $200 and the court added fees totaling $448.  The club president had the exact same outcome.  The cost to put these two cases to rest was $4,796 - including the $1,500 attorney fees.  It took seven months to resolve, six court appearances, time lost from work, and lives put on hold.  Any violation of the rules of court would have resulted in an arrest warrant.  According to McDonald, these defendants had no right to a court-appointed attorney because “the North Las Vegas City Attorney's Office was not seeking jail sentences as part of any sentence on a conviction.”  So by lawyering-up, the club president and secretary saved over $10,000, combined.

But more digging revealed more details.  The cases involving the club president, secretary, and Paul, were all heard by Judge Warren VanLandschoot, elected by the people of North Las Vegas.  This judge is not an attorney.  Rather, according to his official online bio, VanLandschoot “served 28 years with the North Las Vegas Police Department.”

Does VanLandschoot express any anti-motorcyclist or pro-North Las Vegas PD bias in his courtroom?  Consider this:  No recordings of any kind are allowed in this courthouse.  The public is not allowed to bring any electronic devices - no cell phones, no audio or video recorders.  According to a court clerk, the North Las Vegas Municipal Court “is not a court of record.”  That means that the court does not have any sort of transcript, audio, or video recordings of any proceedings.  Therefore, how could anyone prove if judge bias or misconduct existed?  To whom would a citizen appeal for justice?

Facts:  You have ten calendar days to make notification to appeal your case to the district court level; you must pay any fine before or during your appeal process – not after; and, you start over with a brand new arraignment, judge, pretrial, and trial.

Is the power of the North Las Vegas judicial system balanced in favor of justice or corruption?  QuickThrottle Magazine is investigating yet another motorcycle-related case in Judge VanLandschoot’s court.

Did the justice system fail these motorcycle enthusiasts?  Who will be targeted next?  Although Paul remains good friends with members of the club, he recently made a decision to no longer wear his patch.  He said, “I am looking forward to leaving this city for good one day. There are still areas of this country where I can ride a motorcycle and wear a leather vest without the threat of being labeled a criminal.”  Paul is expressing frustration and exhaustion.  Despite the difficulty of his personal predicament, he cared enough to warn fellow motorcyclists by exposing North Las Vegas.  Paul Lemoine is an American patriot and hero and he deserves our gratitude for shedding light on “A Very Concerning Situation.”

Special thanks to Taz, Dave, Renegade, and Bones – local community motorcycle activism leaders.  Each played key roles in this investigation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Motorcycle Friendly Nevada?

Original Article: October 2010 Southwest Edition
By TigerLily

The spirit of motorcycling is under attack across the country on many fronts.  Twenty-two states still have laws mandating adults to wear helmets.  A California Bill recently passed to outlaw loud pipes.  Motorcycle rights activists predict that this law will have far-reaching, harmful effects, as it will be illegal to purchase aftermarket pipes that are even more quiet than stock pipes.  Checkpoints to stop motorcycles only are rising across the country.  

How did we get so far off our Constitutional  track?  Typically, laws are well intentioned.  But left unchecked, those laws will be the death of our American way of life - and most certainly, the death of our motorcycling culture.

This article takes a critical look at one seemingly benign – even benevolent – State program.  The point is that  - like other public bureaucracies - it is causing harm.  That example is the Nevada Rider Motorcycle Safety Program.

This Program was established in 1991.  Its primary purpose “is to conduct quality rider training throughout Nevada.”  It is funded by a $6 fee that only motorcyclists have to pay when registering their vehicle and by federal grants.  The total revenue was over a million dollars in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, combined.  I imagine that in 1991, a little extra fee on a motorcycle registration wasn’t a big deal.  Who cares, if it’s for riding skills, right?

First off, why should motorcyclists be the ONLY vehicles in Nevada required to pay an EXTRA fee for safety?  According to a 2009 NHTSA report, 52% of all motorcycle crashes involved another vehicle.  The report, however, fails to capture how many of the single-motorcycle crashes were caused by another vehicle that did not get hit.  So if other vehicles are causing us to crash, why should WE be the ones paying for ALL the safety?  It’s illogical, but we are stuck with this program – for now.

In the meantime, let’s examine Nevada's governor-appointed Advisory Board on Motorcycle Safety, which is responsible for the Nevada Rider Program.

1.  This year, $126,000 was taken from the Motorcycle Safety Program.  I first heard of this stunning report by Larry Loyd, MSF Instructor for Henderson Harley Davidson.  This report was confirmed by Ken Kiphart, Board Administrator, who said, "a transfer of funds [was] legal after the 2010 legislative special session..."  To Mr. Kiphart's credit, the removal of those funds was out of his control, as legislators passed a special law granting them new authority to move money from a number of specialty funds to balance the State budget.

2.  There appears to be no attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of this Program compared to private sector training options.  Therefore, the question becomes, why exist?  Vic "Doc" Moss, owner of Cycle School Motorcycle Training says: "The program was originally established when no private businesses were willing to provide training.  But when private industry is willing and able, there is no reason for taxpayers to subsidize this type of education.  The program should be phased out or shrink it to handle only the rural areas."  Mr. Nelson Ruehl, known as "Renegade," a motorcycle rights activist with several organizations including the U.S. Defenders says, "I feel motorcyclists take the safety course to avoid the DMV test and get a discount on their insurance.  But the same result is possible through the private sector, stimulating our economy while reducing tax payers' burden." 

3.  A representative of this Program testified against the repeal of the helmet law in the last legislative session The justification to oppose the repeal was on the grounds that the Bill called for mandatory training of new riders and this mandate would have increased the waiting list for those wanting to take the course.  With half a million dollars in the budget at that time, shouldn’t the program have found a means to recruit more educators and accommodate that predicted influx?

4.  The Program is undermining motorcycle tourism in the State of Nevada.   Public highway messages created by the Board and displayed during last year's Street Vibrations in Reno, were a topic of discussion at a recent Board meeting.  A Northern Nevada motorcyclist described the verbiage of the signs as, "tourist unfriendly."  In response, a Board member said, "They're not designed to be friendly, they're supposed to make a point." This type of arrogance is telling.  Renegade states, "In retail, odds are that for every person that complains to a manager there are 10 that don't.  And those 10 spread the word to 10 more.  Can we afford 100 hotel rooms to go empty in this economy?”  A reliable source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Arizona motorcyclists are holding their own event in Arizona concurrently with Las Vegas BikeFest as a means to protest the unfriendly law enforcement climate toward motorcyclists in Nevada.

5.  The program is an extra layer of bureaucracy to stonewall motorcyclists seeking justice for violations of citizens' rights.  In an effort to be law abiding and not be harassed by law enforcers for perceived helmet violations, B.O.L.T.'s David Stilwell, has for one year, consistently asked local law enforcement agencies, "What constitutes a legal helmet?"  Agency responses are, "Ask the Safety Board."  When he asks the Board, he is told to ask the law enforcement agencies, or the Attorney General, or the legislators.  Mr. Stilwell responds, "It's not the legislators or the Attorney General who pull us over.  It's the law enforcers, and they keep passing the buck."

Is our tax money being squandered by this motorcycle safety bureaucracy?

(The original article identified motorcycle friendly public official candidates that were endorsed by ABATE of Southern Nevada.)

Note:  See the angry letter to the editor about this report:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Article and Pictures by TigerLily
Southwest Edition April 2010


In the distance I heard the sound of motorcycles, but not the usual Harley thunder. No, it was the vociferous vibrations of Victory..... the new American motorcycle.

I was off my bike, standing at the side of the road ready to take pictures of my Sin City Victory Rider brothers and sisters as they descended Route 163 into Laughlin. They were headed to the Seventh Annual Southwest Region, Victory Motorcycle Club (VMC) ride. It was a Valentines/President's day weekend, so it was anyone's guess as to how that would impact traffic and attendance. But all was perfect, including clear and sunny skies with temps touching 70's. That's why I'm calling this meet, “Lucky Seventh.”

A few weeks earlier, though, I wasn't feeling so lucky as I begrudgingly obeyed Mother Nature's winter orders to stay cage-bound. So on a dreary day, I logged-on to my favorite MC website, There, I saw a posting by my Arizona VMC friend, John Murrietta, titled, “SW Region Laughlin Ride 2010!” My heart jolted as memories came flooding back about my very first biker event, the Third Annual, in 2006..........

My husband, Burl, had a Victory Vegas and I had a Harley Sportster. As we pulled into the hotel parking in Laughlin, Burl excitingly pointed, “Look at all those Victories!” Back then, I still didn't know the difference between a Harley or Honda – much less a Victory. But I'm sure I dutifully acknowledged his thrill.

That weekend the event included a ride with only a couple dozen Victory motorcycles riding together on a sunny Saturday. Oh the thrill of my first, relatively large group ride. Burl had counseled me extensively on the etiquette and safety of riding in a group. But our perennial road captain, Tom Pillsbury, made it easy. Tom is a local from Fort Mojave, Arizona, and an expert on local roads.

Tom methodically lead the long entourage of bikers to Oatman, a tiny town in Arizona. Once a booming gold mine, today Oatman has a small strip of shops, cowboy gunfight shows, and a hotel where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned.

And when the gold fever dropped, so were the donkeys that worked the mines. Now the donkeys' descendants stroll the strip looking for handouts. Tourists buy and feed them carrots. Baby donkeys have stickers plastered to their foreheads to keep tourists from feeding them carrots. A Victory biker asked me, “Why can't they have carrots?” I said, “Because the babies are still nursing.” The perv joked, “Hey, I want one of those stickers on my forehead!”

The ride to Oatman would have been satisfying enough. But Tom kept us moving on Old Route 66. The scenery up high captured my imagination of generations past. How difficult it must have been for families to load up a truck and migrate West. Those steep slopes and sharply twisted grades must have been hard on the coughing and belching pickups, and unnerving to the bone-tired passengers. But today, what a pleasure and luxury to ride Old 66 on a magically-maneuvering motorcycle. For Burl and me, it was a new-bee's thrill to climb to 3000 feet; from Laughlin to Oatman to Kingman then back to Laughlin at dusk.

Afterward, we cleaned up to visit the VIP suite where we first met John Murrietta, and his California event-plotting partners, Patti Rowe, and Tommy Wise. The three of them ditched the ride to make sure “horse d'ovaries” were ready for the riders. But blood shot eyes and deliberate enunciation proved their absence had nothing to do with setting up appetizers. And now that I know Patti, I can only imagine her being pried from a poker machine to visit with old friends and meet new ones like us. John was buzzed and made the biggest first impression on me with his large, thick, commanding voice and stature. His welcoming Latin, family-style charm took the edge off the stench of his gigantic cigar.

That was four years ago..........

So this winter, I opened John's online post: “Mark your Calendars!!!!! The 7th Annual SW Region Laughlin ride will be Friday-Sunday, February 12-14th, 2010. Super Bowl will be over, no off road race, we get the whole town. Rally up and let's make it the biggest ever.”

And indeed, Lucky Seventh was the grandest of all. Burl and I have watched this meet grow since attending that Third Annual. Regardless the size, the theme is consistent: a big group ride lead by Tom; a party afterward; and several riding options for smaller groups.

Not having attended the first or second meet, I got to wonder how this all got started. So I asked the baby blue-eyed Tommy, and he recalled:

“We can blame John. 'Just a quick overnight get together,' he says. I got a suite and invited everyone for cocktails and horse d' ovaries. Maybe 2 dozen the first year. By the 4th year we had over 80 people in the suite, spread out down the corridor, clouds of smoke billowing out of the 'cigar suite.' Hotel security said we had outgrown the suite and should try something different the next year. The banquet started in '08 because we needed more room!”

This year's event attracted some 90 Victory motorcycles and 120 banquet attendees from five Southwest states. This time, cigar-less, John worked the banquet floor, with his usual charm, wit, and humor. He introduced the Lucky Seventh key players and gave special recognition to Jim Martinez and his lovely wife, Trish, for being the furthest travelers. They plowed through 850 miles of snow to trailer their Victory Vegas all the way from Denver. I took their picture and found out what Jim had to say:

“Trish and I have been with other riding clubs but we feel most comfortable with Victory folks. We even considered taking a flight to Laughlin and renting a motorcycle. This weekend, we are celebrating Valentines and our 33rd wedding anniversary. And since Trish is a school teacher, President's Day was a convenient day off for her. We enjoyed a special time getting out of the snow, riding with Victory friends, and seeing Laughlin for the first time.”

The banquet also included a charity raffle for breast cancer with prizes donated by dealers, vendors, and others. The grand prize of $150 was awarded to a happy Harley rider who rode to Laughlin from California with his Victory pals.

After attendees settled back home, there was an online explosion of reports. Rick Gunder, from Prescott Valley, AZ, known in VMC circles as “Bearcat” summed it up nicely: “Seeing what riders are doing with their scoots is one of the absolute biggest reasons to attend an event and the SW Victory Meet was certainly well worth the time and effort! Can't wait for next year.”

Camaraderie, great riding, mild winters – these are reasons this event has grown exponentially in seven years. What started as a gathering of a few Victory enthusiasts that wanted to meet and share a ride, has grown into a formidable event. And this year's event was an especially Lucky Seventh!