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June 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Six Highwaymen Motorcycle Gang Members Convicted of Racketeering in Detroit

Michael Cicchetti

Michael Cicchetti

By Allan Lengel

Six members of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, accused of engaging in violence, drug trafficking and other illegal activities, were convicted Thursday in Detroit federal court of racketeering conspiracy charges including one member who was tried in absentia after having a heart attack in the third week of trial.

The verdict marked a major victory for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which took on an ambitious project by indicting more than 80 members and associates of the motorcycle gang.  This was the first of potentially many trials to come in what has been regarded as one of the biggest indictments in the history of the U.S.  Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

Those convicted included Aref (Steve) Nagi, 46; Gary (Junior) Ball Jr., 44; Leonard (Dad) Moore, 61; Joseph (Little Joe) Whiting, 56; Anthony (Mad Anthony) Clark, 52, and Michael (Cocoa) Cicchetti, 55, who recently suffered a heart attack during the trial.

“Violent crime is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and we will use all of the tools available to us to attack violent criminal organizations like this one,” Detroit  U.S. Attorney Barbara L.  McQuade said in a statement.

Andrew Arena, head of the Detroit FBI, added in a statement: “Dismantling violent gangs is a continuing priority for the FBI.”

Besides the sexy aspect of trying a motorcycle gang, the case gained some notoriety after one defendant, Michael Cicchetti, 55, had a heart attack, three weeks into the eight week trial.

As a result, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds initially declared a mistrial for Cicchetti and decided he could be tried later while trial continued on for the other five.

Then she reversed the ruling, against the objection of the prosecution, and granted his Cicchetti’s request via phone that he be tried in absentia.. The prosecution feared the jury might be too sympathetic to him after learning of the heart attack and let him walk.

The jury, nonetheless, on Thursday convicted Cicchetti while he was recovering at home. The other five defendants were taken into custody after the verdict was read. Cicchetti remained free.

Sanford Plotkin, his attorney, told Thursday night that he hoped to overturn the conviction one way or another, saying the evidence in the case was clearly lacking.

Plotkin has filed a Rule 29 motion, asking the  judge to declare that the prosecution failed to prove its case and overturn the jury’s verdict.

“I think the jury in the case was extremely attentive, particularly for a protracted case and a very complex case,” Plotkin said. ” I think they did their best and I commend them for that. However, I think with all due respect to these jurors, they got it wrong as to Mr Cicchati. And I intend to do everything that I can to clear his name of the wrongful charges.”

“It ain’t over yet.”

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