Originally Published: June 19, 2012 3:48 p.m.
A judge on Tuesday afternoon granted a defense motion to dismiss the assault cases against seven men accused in a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs in 2010 because, the judge said, the prosecution violated their constitutional rights.
The men - Michael Koepke, John Bernard, Kevin Christiansen, Kiley Hill, Larry Scott Jr., Robert Kittredge and Bruce Schweigert - all allegedly associated with the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, faced multiple charges in connection with a shootout with the Vagos Motorcycle Club in Chino Valley on Aug. 21, 2010.
Kopeke's lawyer, Richard Gaxiola, filed a motion to dismiss the case, and the others' attorneys joined in, claiming a violation of due process and prosecutorial misconduct.
The motion stems from disclosure by the state that a witness who claimed he saw a confrontation occur between members of the two clubs at a convenience store was actually a paid confidential informant (CI) for law enforcement who had once tried to join the Hell's Angels and was turned away, only to become associated with the Vagos.
Gaxiola argued before Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Cele Hancock that the two grand juries who indicted the seven men were never told that Alfred Azevedo was working for GIITEM, the statewide Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission group, that he was paid to inform, and had been "rebuffed" in an attempt to join the Hell's Angels.
Azevedo was the only person who ever described the confrontation between the Hell's Angels members and the Vagos, Gaxiola said, quoting interviews with detectives, and if Azevedo's credibility was questioned, then the entire case could be weakened.
James O'Haver, Scott's attorney, said the problem was compounded by the fact that Deputy County Attorney Dana Owens knew about Azevedo's situation but "sat on" the evidence, never telling the grand juries and only telling the defense afterward, when it was too late.
Hancock said in her decision that the prosecution had, in fact, failed "to disclose material, clearly exculpatory evidence (that it had in its possession)," which could have resulted in the Grand Jury failing to produce an indictment.
Hancock stopped short of finding that Owens had intentionally concealed the information, and, for that reason, ruled that the case would be dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charges could be re-filed.
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