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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Vagos Bikers Sue Ex-D.A. for Defamation

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) - The Vagos Motorcycle Club claims Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco defamed them by calling them a "criminal organization" of "cockroaches" and "terrorists."

The Vagos claim Pacheco, the Riverside County Sheriff's Office, and the Hemet police chief defamed them to the media after targeting them in a sweep called "Operation Everywhere."

They add that county sheriff's officers, under Pacheco's direction, harassed them for months before the sweep.

The Vagos - Spanish for vagabonds or vagrants - claim the March 17, 2010 sweep was made "for the purposes of intimidation and harassment at the direction of Pacheco."

They claim the defendants made "defamatory statements expressly stating that the Vagos MC was a gang, an extreme threat, a criminal organization, that its members were 'cockroaches,' and terrorists, and that Vagos MC and/or its members were responsible for a series of attacks and attempted attacks on government buildings and employees of the City of Hemet."

The Vagos claim that Pacheco said in a press conference after the raids that "the Vagos bikers pose 'an extreme threat to law enforcement.'

"This statement was made by Pacheco in the wake of a series of attacks against the Hemet Police Department, thus falsely implying to a reasonable person under the circumstances that the Vagos MC, or members thereof, were linked to, and/or were perpetrators of said attacks."

The Vagos say Pacheco also made these defamatory statements at the press conference:

"When you try to kill law enforcement officers in this county, you are going to get a very significant response;"

"They practice an extreme brand of violence;"

and, "The Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang has a well-established criminal structure that is responsible for violent crimes as well as sophisticated identity theft cases against innocent citizens in our communities."

The Vagos claim that of the nearly 100 people arrested in the March 17 raids, "None of the people arrested were members of the Vagos MC."

The Vagos also sued Riverside County public information officer John Hall, Sheriff's Capt. Walter Meyer, and Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana.

The Vagos add that they have been subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, deprived of property, subjected to unreasonable traffic stops, and that the resulting bad publicity has caused their members to be refused service in restaurants and bars and "prevented from attending church activities."

They claim the defendants aim "to destroy the Vagos MC reputation in the community," and that the sweep was part of Pacheco's "unsuccessful attempt to be re-elected as district attorney."

The Vagos seek punitive damages and costs for defamation and civil rights violations. They are represented by Joseph Yanny with Yanny & Smith of Los Angeles.

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