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Biker clubs claim civil rights violations from Las Vegas police

Attorney Stephen Stubbs tried to talk to Las Vegas police in September about law enforcement harassing motorcycle club members.

He said he was told to file a lawsuit if he had a problem.

So that’s exactly what he did.

“They kind of left us no choice,” Stubbs said Tuesday. “They don’t want to abide by the Constitution.”

Stubbs, legal counsel for the association of 37 biker organizations known as the Las Vegas Confederation of Clubs, filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court Monday. It alleges club members have been systematically harassed by law enforcement agencies.

The lawsuit lists 78 individual plaintiffs and seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for each of 15 claims of relief. It also calls for punitive damages. The defendants named in the lawsuit are the Metropolitan Police Department, the North Las Vegas Police Department, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, North Las Vegas Chief of Police Joseph Chronister and 14 individual police officers. Four motorcycle clubs – the Mongols, Stray Cats, Bandidos and Vagos - are involved in the case.

The lawsuit details six encounters that occurred between June 2010 and September 2011 that Stubbs alleges violated his clients’ First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.

The lawsuit is not related to the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s annual meeting, which took place in Boulder City last weekend.

The lawsuit alleges that police officers persuaded the Alexis Park resort to cancel a Mongols Motorcycle Club car and bike show; threatened to remove multiple bar owners’ liquor licenses if they hosted Mongols or Vagos events; broke up a Stray Cats party without a warrant and denied a club member’s right to counsel; defamed a member of the Bandidos to the point he was fired from his job as a paramedic; and arrested another member of the Bandidos on an invalid warrant.

Included in Stubb’s release of the lawsuit was a copy of a June 2011 letter Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie sent to the management of Scoundrels Pub on South Decatur Boulevard.

Gillespie described the Vagos as a criminal gang and said knowingly serving such groups could result in discipline from the Clark County Liquor and Gaming Board.

Stubbs does not believe any of the clubs he represents are gangs.

The attorney thinks case law is on his side and referred to a 2002 Nevada Supreme Court decision in Burgess v. Storey County Board of Commissioners.

Burgess, a brothel owner, lost his business license because of his association with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Burgess successfully appealed, with the high court finding his First Amendment rights had been violated because the licensing board did not provide a compelling state interest to interfere with his right to associate with the Hells Angels.

North Las Vegas and Las Vegas police declined to comment on the lawsuit because of polices that prohibit speaking about ongoing litigation.

Stubbs predicted the case will be served within the next 30 days. The involved police departments then will have 20 days to respond.

“Everybody has the same constitutional rights,” Stubbs said. “The minute we start disregarding someone’s constitutional rights because we don’t agree with them, this country is in big trouble.”

Contact reporter Ben Frederickson at bfrederickson@
reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

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