RICO Sentences for Hells Angels-Like Pair Upheld

     (CN) – Two members of the Guardians, a Jacksonville, Fla., group modeled on the Hells Angels, who stole cash, jewelry and guns in multiple home invasions, must serve lengthy prison sentences, the 11th Circuit affirmed.
     “In a case of life imitating art imitating life, Maynard Kenneth Godwin was inspired by the fictional motorcycle gang in ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ itself modeled on the real life Hells Angels, to form his own band of brigands called the Guardians,” the 36-page opinion begins. “Under his leadership, the Guardians terrorized the citizens of Jacksonville, Florida, through a steady onslaught of home invasion robberies, armed bank robberies, and other crimes.”
     Godwin gave himself the moniker “The Boss,” and nicknames for other members included “The Enforcer,” “Road Captain” and “Tech.”
     Members wore dog tags engraved with their nicknames and their rank and sported Guardian tattoos. Several also rode motorcycles or used steroids.
     Although not a full member, Eric Ellis participated in at least two of the Guardians’ crimes, and received proceeds from a third.
     Ellis assisted two other Guardians in beating a man “within an inch of his life,” because he had allegedly been “messing up [Godwin’s] trailer.”
     Less than three weeks later, Ellis and two Guardians broke into the home of Brigg and Linda Hart, forced Linda to open the bedroom safe, and stole $328,000 in cash, $750,000 in jewelry, and numerous firearms.
     The gang committed several other home invasions, and a bank robbery, before a relative agreed to serve as a paid FBI informant.
     Godwin was arrested after he was recorded on a telephone wire discussing another planned home invasion.
     Police also arrested Ellis, and found numerous stolen weapons in his home, next to a calendar that marked the day after Thanksgiving as “Negro Friday.”
     The 11th Circuit on Wednesday affirmed the men’s convictions for racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering, as well as Ellis’ 20-year sentence and Godwin’s 30-year sentence.
     “Ellis elected to take the stand and testify in his own defense, denying that he was associated with the Guardians. Having seen and heard him testify on the subject, the jury was free not only to discredit his testimony that he was not associated with the Guardians, but also to infer the opposite, and to use that inference as substantive evidence that he was indeed an associate of the enterprise,” Judge Ed Carnes wrote for a three-judge panel.
     There is also substantial evidence that Ellis sold his share of the stolen jewelry to the Guardians’ “gold guy,” according to the ruling.
     “The relevant question is whether he sold the diamond with the intent to promote the ‘specified unlawful activity,’ which was the June 2009 home invasion robbery. And under our decision in United States v. Carcione, the only answer that we can give to that question is ‘yes,'” Carnes found.
     The Atlanta-based court also rejected Godwin’s procedural challenges to his conviction, ruling that the trial judge did not err in removing a juror from Godwin’s panel after jury deliberations began. This occurred after all 11 other jurors testified that the juror refused to comply with the court’s instructions, and several reported that she had said she would not follow the law.

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