In a first-of-its-kind verdict Friday, a federal jury ruled the Mongols motorcycle gang should be stripped of its trademarked logo.
The jury in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., previously found the Mongol Nation guilty of racketeering and conspiracy. The verdict was the second phase of a trial that focused on forfeiture of assets and it caps a decade-long quest by prosecutors to dismantle the gang claimed to be responsible for drug dealing and murder.
“The Mongols are a notorious criminal organization whose members regularly engage in violent acts against law enforcement officers, rival gangs and members of the public,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “The verdicts in this case brand the Mongols as a racketeering enterprise and direct the forfeiture of property used by the gang for decades to encourage and reward numerous acts of murder, assault and drug trafficking.”
“The verdicts in this case brand the Mongols as a racketeering enterprise and direct the forfeiture of property used by the gang for decades to encourage and reward numerous acts of murder, assault and drug trafficking.”
Authorities claim the group’s logo -- a Genghis Khan-like figure with sunglasses and a ponytail riding a motorcycle, which is worn on the back of the Mongols members' leather vests -- is directly linked to the club’s crimes.
The verdict will lead to the forfeiture of the gang's legal interest in the word "Mongols" and some of their patches, as well as Mongols items seized during the investigation, prosecutors said.
Gang members were "empowered by these symbols that they wear like armor," Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Welk said.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter declined to immediately order the logos forfeited and set a hearing next month to address possible First Amendment issues raised by the verdict.
Mongols defense lawyer Joseph Yanny questioned the reasoning for going after the group’s trademark.
"If you were a law enforcement officer and you knew there was a gang out there and they had emblems on that identifies who they are, why in God's name would you want to take them off of them so you couldn't know who they were?" Yanny said. "It's the stupidest thing."
The Mongols were formed in the 1960s in a Los Angeles suburb. The group is estimated to have more than 1,000 riders in chapters worldwide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.