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Dec-16-2011 15:15printcomments

A Criminal Case Against the Color Green

After hearing the case and deliberating, eight of 12 jury members believed Rives isn't guilty, but that wasn't enough to earn his freedom, and the case goes on.

Steve Rives and Mark Schiller, Vagos M/C
Steve Rives and Mark Schiller, Vagos M/C

(SALEM) - Oregon prosecutors seem to be tripping over some awkward stumbling blocks in their case against one of two men allegedly involved in an assault outside of a Grants Pass bar last year.

Once again, it looks like the state is portraying an otherwise simple assault charge against an Oregon biker as an extraordinary and unusual violation of the law.

One question at hand is whether the prosecution's energy revolves more around motorcycle club membership and a man's affection for the color green, than evidence. The state's vigorous attempt at prosecution leaves a six year prison sentence hanging in the balance for an Oregon small business owner.

At first glance, and according to local media accounts, the case against Steve Rives, who is 58, and a member of an Oregon motorcycle club, looks serious.

But a closer look reveals what appears to have been a brief nighttime fight in a parking lot, from where the victim, who was left with a swollen black eye, walked to a phone and called police. Both Steve Rives and the other defendant, Shawn Haugen, say they had nothing to do with it.

Of course fights frequently take place outside of alcohol establishments, in most towns on most weekends, but this alleged sucker punch and beat down are drawing big from taxpayers through the extensive use of state time and resources.

Steve Rives & Mark Schiller on a southern Oregon renovation project.

If particular allegations against a detective's methods of obtaining a search warrant are accurate, then the entire case may be a wash anyway.

The defendant is the owner of the General Store in Murphy, Oregon. Defense attorney Michael Stedman, says rather than criminal, clubs such as the the one Rives belongs to, the Vagos M/C, really serve as a form of social service organization. Some clubs have had members commit crime in the past, just as members of law enforcement agencies and district attorney's offices have committed crimes; however in the case of motorcycle clubs, there is a branding effort underway by the government to portray them as criminal organizations.

Shaun Hall with the Daily Courier, wrote:

During opening remarks in Josephine Circuit Court, a defense attorney said the club itself is on trial...

That in fact may be very close to what is taking place, and it is not the first time Oregon has spent a whole lot of taxpayer money trying to, and sometimes successfully, convicting members of clubs.

In a press released from the Vagos M/C, their Spokesman, Mark Schiller, wrote:

Motorcycle clubs are not Gangs, We're not signing a paper to get out of trouble saying we are a gang because that would be a bold face lie! Membership is not illegal, holding a honorable position in a club is not illegal. We support several charitable fund raisers, toys for tots, children's foster care, breast cancer just to name a few. Our club helps when it can. Whether it be money, toys or just time and fellowship. We pay taxes and vote, we have families, we struggle with all the things in day to day living just like everyone else.

Defining 'One-Percenter'

For the record, many members of the public are confused about the 1% aspect of clubs, and in the end they assume this to mean something sinister in nature, when in fact it is a snapshot into history.

After WWII, battle hardened military veterans discovered in large numbers that big American made vee twin motorcycles like Harley-Davidson's and Indian's were the closest thing to freedom they could get their hands on. A large number of motorcyclists went to Hollister, California in 1947 and sort of overwhelmed the populace, not too big if a deal, but the first event of its nature. Shortly after that, a movie, The Wild Ones with Marlon Brando, portrayed the event as a terror fest which it was not, and the fear of the American biker was born. The American Motorcycle Association issued a statement in regard to the media hysteria, and said something to the affect of how 99% of all motorcycle riders were in fact good, law-abiding citizens, and the men who invaded Hollister only represented 1% of American motorcyclists.

So there you go, I had the pleasure of meeting a member of the club at the center of that affair, the Boozefighters; and there is a book and a great deal more available to learn about this story. Also visit my 2008 report: American Motorcycle Culture: The One Percenters

Viewed as criminal in nature, all of these clubs have members with no criminal records of any kind; in fact, the motorcycle clubs fill key voids in society; many serve as support groups for military veterans, and this is vitally important in a nation full of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The unity in and among these clubs allows for a great deal of lifesaving camaraderie.

Color Sensitive

Motorcycle clubs are also know for their tendency to gather toys for kids and participate in other charity activities. However in this case the prosecutor had very little interest in the good deeds, instead spending a great deal of time talking about the defendant's obsession with the color green, and anyone who has been around the Vagos M/C knows they are all about green, this seems to almost go beyond even the idea of 'thought police' - color police?

Mark Shiller wrote in the Vagos M/C press release:

All he was prosecuted for was being a club member. They criticized him for the color of the walls in his house. They slander his friends, his associations, his family; anyone connected to him or the club he belongs to. All done with a malicious intent and open hatred of the Vagos M/C, going to the point of making an issue of his green tennis shoes or if anyone in the court room there to support him was wearing green. Green being the main color of our club.

It seems color may be an appropriate word for this story, as the Vagos have communicated some very interesting information about a detective reportedly falsifying information under the color of law in this case. Court witnesses say the detective was caught on the stand having falsified the affidavit for a search warrant.

It is a point that the local paper only to be worthy of a brief mention in the final paragraph.

A Small Hammer?

The prosecutors contend that the attack on the victim involved a hammer, which the victim called a "small hammer" and the Grants Pass news accounts refer to as a "ball peen hammer". While the newspaper writers and police seem to like this aspect of the case, the hammer matter wasn't mentioned or revealed early on, and the detective is alleged to have created that part in order to gain a search warrant. Advocates say documents that reflect this have not yet been released by the court.

No such hammer was ever recovered, and there was no blood evidence tying the victim to the defendants. Of course the inclusion of a hammer, interestingly described as "very small" by the victim during court proceedings, makes the state's case appear stronger, even if the item has not surfaced, and even if it was a small hammer, which piqued my curiosity, as it must have with the prosecutors. My immediate thought is that it is an unusual choice for a weapon.

So I searched Google as you also can, under the terms: "small hammer" "assault weapon" The pickings were slim. I found two "small hammer" crimes listed.

  • Ha'aretz in Israel reported in 2009, that their security service, Shin Bet, blew their investigation of a suspect in five Murders. Authorities said there was a, "reasonable possibility that the assault was carried out with a small hammer that was at the scene". Ha'aretz article here.
  • Apparently a guy named Brett Noble in the state of Iowa, used a small hammer to beat a man on 31 Dec 2007, Muscatine Journal covered the story briefly. Muscatine Journal here

Of course hammers have been used to kill people in different crimes throughout history, particular during the Viking period, though they were of substantially larger size than the alleged hammer in this case, which in addition to being "small" was also described by the victim as being a "machinist hammer". I thought that would lead to more results, and believed it was in fact a broader search term.

So not only is the hammer weapon in this case invisible, but it is small, and not an item most criminals would carry. The one thing that is clear is that the Assault II charge would not exist without a weapon. I have not examined the 911 tapes, but the defense attorney says the victim clearly stated that he could not identify his attackers, the same men he later identified when shown photos by police.

The victim in this assault, Bruce Smith, is described as the friend of a former club member who gave testimony against the club in the past. Perhaps this explains a great deal about the prosecutors desire to press their case in spite of the fact that the victim told a 911 operator at the time of the assault, that he "didn't know who his attackers were; he said very clearly that it was too dark, he didn't know", the defense stated in court.

Outing of a Sex Offender

The story gets even more interesting when you understand what it truly evolves from. In spite of the reputation media and police heap on bike clubs, the 1% organizations in particular have rules and codes and they are serious. One is that sex offenders aren't allowed, it is a simple and straightforward rule that all members are aware of. In 2007 the Vagos M/C discovered that a member was indeed, a sex offender.

The member was according to documents, chased with a sawed off shotgun, which was not fired, and the club would not agree to let him take his motorcycle.

This is the 'huge crime' that the state spent countless hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing, rather than simply backing off when they realized it was to keep one more sex offender out of one more group.

From what I understand, the actions were taken in order to scare the ex-member and that he would have been given his bike, but not at the time he was outed to other members.

Attorney Lisa Turner, a prosecutor in the case, said Smith, "had the crap beat out of him". According to Turner, it happened, "for knowing the wrong person - a snitch, a rat"

After hearing the case and deliberating, eight of 12 jury members believed Rives isn't guilty, but that wasn't enough to earn his freedom, and the case goes on. There is also a second defendant, Shawn Haugen, who is 35-years old, whose trial is still a few weeks away. Prosecutors in Josephine County, Oregon say they will refile charges against Rives.

Once again, I see the swagger and bravado of agents of a government who rely on an uninformed public to react with shock to the motorcycle club aspect. A video produced by a southern Oregon newspaper, shows the prosecutors repeatedly waiving a Vagos vest around in the courtroom, with their colors emblazoned on the back. It was good advertising for the club but appeared bizarre beyond that.

I have written repeatedly about how the federal agencies in particular, are involved in a witch hunt against bikers in the United States. The result is growing unity between clubs and the type of solidarity that only oppression brings. This in the end will bring those who hate bikers little relief.

Past related reports:

Dec-16-2011: Vagos M/C Issues Statement Over Southern Oregon Court

Nov-22-2011: Six Americans Were Held Against their Will in Norway - Tim King

Oct-27-2011: Oregon Bikers Help Find Answers for Vulnerable Missing Woman - Tim King

Jul-16-2011: Bikers Continue to Defy Stereotypes in Oregon - Tim King

May-09-2011: Tim and Bonnie King Receive 2011 Silver Spoke Media Award in Albuquerque (VIDEO) -

Dec-02-2010: Nov-27-2010: Tim and Bonnie King Receive Excellence in Journalism Award -

Nov-27-2010: Tim and Bonnie King Receive Excellence in Journalism Award -

Oct-27-2010: Charitable Biker Event Incites 'Criminal Profiling' from Police - Brad Betz for

Apr-18-2010: U.S. Defenders Take Oregon Motorcycle Rights to the Streets - Tim King and Bonnie King

Mar-22-2010: Southern Oregon Motorcycle Club Member Sentenced - Tim King

Mar-06-2010: Biker Club Members Keep Salem Home From Going Up in Smoke - Story by Tim King Video by Mike Kondash for

Feb-17-2010: Oregon Motorcycle Riders Converge on Capitol - Bonnie King

Aug-13-2009: Idaho Uses FBI Agents to Detain Oregon Motorcycle Riders - Tim King

Aug-13-2009: American Motorcycle Culture: The One Percenters - Tim King


Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

TATTOO USA January 6, 2012 1:24 pm (Pacific time)

thanks tim, another great work.

Tim King: Thanks Brother!

Anonymous December 20, 2011 9:55 am (Pacific time)

Gee, imagine, slanted biased reporting by Tim King. Hey Tim, did you ever look at the history of the club, their by-laws, shooting in Reno in September, shooting in Arizona a year ago,numerous other beatings? All in the name of charity :) I'll bet you had your green cuts on when you wrote this... or, I'll bet this is part of your prospecting duties to become a full patched member. What I wouldn't give to have Paul Harvey again so he could give us "The rest of the story"

Tim King: I always point out how the agencies that pursue these clubs have their own histories of their members committing crime; people are people, some break the law and some don't.  This story is about malicious prosecution, it is about singling people out in a land of free men.  I have news for you, this is the rest of the story. And just because I know people you assume I am a prospect?  For the record, I don't even own a motorcycle right now.  I am a journalist, a veteran, a writer, maybe in my heart I'm mostly an activist.  I am a friend of many clubs, but I don't belong to one nor am I in the process of trying to be in one.    

Badger,Vagos M/C December 19, 2011 5:05 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks Tim !

Tim King: Same to you Badger!

Indignant December 19, 2011 12:21 pm (Pacific time)

These stories are popping up more and more lately. And it is a damned shame. Everyone who values their freedom and rights should be paying very close attetion to issues such as what the MC's and individual members are dealing with, because it's not just them that are being singled out. ANY group that does not fit the mold, or cowtow to the almighty gov't is targeted for the pinch. My father-in-law is a long-time member of the Marine Corps. League and it has been recently brought to their attention that they are now on the federal terrorist watch list! ("they" meaning the league itself). People who stand for their rights, be it a group or individuals are under attack. Banding together, as best as possible, is the only hope for any of us- not just us bikers. The gov't is enjoying a rather easy go it all too. They like seeing "club rivalry" and use it to their advantage. Even though the vast majority of the "facts" regarding these so-called wars are fabricated trash that they create!! I for one am very damned glad that the MC's are beginning to see what's up, and are starting to bury the hacket on some long-standing feuds and such. The feds play off of the divide and conquer credo, it's time to take that element out of the equation...

Anonymous December 17, 2011 1:55 pm (Pacific time)

by the way...I have been beat to heck by "editors" because I post anon.. I suppose if I used "editor" then I am ok? Or did you miss the space key? Is your name Ed Itor?
Your last name sounds kinda Russian, but I dont know any Russians called not sure. News Editor is Tim King.  Daniel Johnson, Bonnie King and Matt Lintz sometimes approve comments also, but if it just says 'Editor'....

Christina Bezley December 17, 2011 6:59 am (Pacific time)

This is *B* crap! I know some of these guys, as well as some other members of other groups. These guys are 'regular' guys who happen to belong to what I will refer to, as a 'Boys Club'...Many members are married, have jobs, homes, families, etc..this has become a circus just because of a life long prejudism, and an over zealous prosecutor. Sure, there may be a few, and I mean just a 'few' that may 'tarnish' the ideal of what these clubs are all about. Brotherhood. We individuals have much to learn from them; the comrade, fellowship, loyalty and love they share. Back to 'prejudism'...this is the same as labeling a different color person because of their deeds, thus, labeling all because of that same color. And, really? This young female prosecutor, through observation, appears, again, to be overly zealous of bringing down something that's much more powerful than her, the inbreed values of a dying American quality of the mentioned admirable characteristics. Please, Miss Prosecutor, I dare you to 'hang out' with these fellows for a bit, and I guarantee you'll not see any colors.

Anonymous December 16, 2011 8:26 pm (Pacific time)

This entire trial is a colassal miscarriage of justice. WHY do we let them get away with this crap?!?!?

Stephen December 16, 2011 6:39 pm (Pacific time)

This is why our only hope is Ron Paul...

Editor: I am placing your comment on a recent Ron Paul article, please stay on topic with the posts, thanks.

Observer December 16, 2011 4:53 pm (Pacific time)

Equality and freedom, dignity and privacy, these are inherent rights of Americans. The government is clearly singling out clubs and it doesn't matter if they ride motorcycles, next the excuse will be the same but the target will be different, eventually they will come for you too. Stand behind these brothers, a case against them should be treated like a case against any other tax-paying American citizen.

Anonymous December 16, 2011 4:41 pm (Pacific time)

One question at hand is whether the prosecution's energy revolves more around motorcycle club membership and a man's affection for the color green, than evidence. Gee..ya think? :-)

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