LOS ANGELES – Federal prosecutors sought a final order Monday barring members of the notorious Mongols motorcycle gang from wearing or distributing its trademarked logo and using its name.
The move came after nearly three years of legal wrangling between the Mongols and prosecutors over the insignia that shows a ponytailed Genghis Khan-like figure aboard a chopper.
The order, if signed by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, would make the government the owner of the logo and the club's name, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Welk said.
The prosecution's request marked the first time in the U.S. the government has sought control of a gang's identity — via its logo — through a court order.
The effort is part of a 2008 racketeering indictment that accused gang members of murder, drug trafficking and torture. More than 100 people faced charges in state and federal courts, and dozens have pleaded guilty to crimes ranging from drug possession to conspiracy.
Prosecutors argued the logo should be forfeited because the trademarks were acquired and maintained by former Mongol president Ruben "Doc" Cavazos while the club was involved in criminal activity. Cavazos has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and is expected to be sentenced later this year.
"During his tenure as national president, Cavazos personally controlled the distribution and use of the registered marks, also with the knowledge and consent of the gang membership," prosecutors wrote in court documents filed last week.
However, attorney George Steele, who represents the Mongols club, said a person cannot own a collective membership insignia.
"That is the key issue here," Steele said at the hearing Monday before Wright, who took the matter under submission.
Another judge issued an injunction in late 2008 prohibiting Mongol members from wearing the logo. The move led to numerous seizures across the nation of Mongol-related gear. Wright last year entered a preliminary order of forfeiture.
However, Wright found in favor of the Mongol Nation Motorcycle Club Inc. in September, ruling that none of the defendants had a forfeitable ownership interest in the logo, and vacated his order.
Over the past several months, prosecutors have culled more evidence to show the judge that Mongol members knew Cavazos was the sole owner of the logo. Cavazos said during a deposition in April that the insignia was his property.
"They were in my personal control to begin (with)," Cavazos said. "Mongol Nation is mine."
Prosecutors had planned to play an August 2008 recording at Monday's hearing in which then-Mongol president Hector Gonzalez is heard at a club meeting telling members that Cavazos was the logo's rightful owner, Welk said. Wright opted not hear oral arguments, though.
The club's website displays the logo on its home page and promises to have an online store with its black-and-white apparel soon.