A federal judge in California has declined to approve a jury’s decision to strip the Mongols motorcycle club of its trademarked logo.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who oversaw the racketeering trial late last year when the Mongol Nation was convicted, cited constitutional protections against intrusions on free speech and excessive fines, in his decision Thursday.
“The First Amendment and Eighth Amendment permanently prohibit the Government’s request to forfeit the rights associated with the collective symbols,” Carter wrote in the decision.
Prosecutors said they were disappointed in the ruling and are considering an appeal.
Attorney Joe Yanny, who represents the Mongols, said that the ruling will protect members of all groups. “You don’t have the right to steal the identity of an organization,” he said. “I think the Mongols will succeed in the appeal, if it goes that far.”
Yanny also said that prosecution of the club “was an attempt at collective guilt” and that the Mongols had already “cleaned up its own act” and expelled members who were alleged to be involved in the illegal acts.
Federal prosecutors have been trying for more than a decade to get at the Mongols’ trademarked logo, which they say forms the core of the identity of what they have called a motorcycle gang.
Carter wrote the jury found that the government “did not prove the requisite nexus between the collective membership marks” and the racketeering offense, but that the collective membership marks were forfeitable as to the racketeering conspiracy alone.
“The forfeiture of the rights associated with a symbol that has been in continuous use by an organization since 1969 is unjustified…