South Carolina - COLUMBIA, SC - At first, the Hells Angels biker appeared defiant as he was led into a courtroom at the Matthew J. Perry Federal Courthouse in Columbia.
Mark "Lightning" Baker stared down the FBI agents, U.S. marshals and prosecutors who were sending him to jail. Then, Baker grinned at them and lifted his shackled hands, extending his middle finger.
He did it again and again, sometimes using both middle fingers to make his point, as he waited Wednesday morning for his sentencing hearing to begin.
Within 30 minutes, however, the 50-year-old Baker was crying as he begged U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie to have mercy on him.
"A meth addiction caused me to make some bad decisions," Baker said.
Currie sentenced Baker to 15½ years in prison on racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy and firearms charges.
Baker was one of three Hells Angels convicted in March after a five-week trial. One of his co-defendants, Bruce "Bruce Bruce" Long, was sentenced earlier Wednesday to 14 years in prison for 13 counts, including racketeering conspiracy, drug and firearms trafficking. The third defendant, David "Gravel Dave" Oiler, was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is planning a Wednesday afternoon press conference to outline the investigations and convictions of more than a dozen Hells Angels, who were indicted in May 2012 after a lengthy investigation that involved wire taps and a former mobster who worked as a confidential informant for the FBI.
Investigators and prosecutors have said the Hells Angels Rock Hell City Nomad Chapter was a criminal enterprise whose members sold drugs and guns then gave kickbacks to the gang. The gang operated in York and Lexington counties, prosecutors said.
However, the Hells Angels have insisted they are a club of brothers who bond over their love of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Any crimes committed by members are solely the responsibility of those individuals and not the entire club, they said.
On Wednesday, Baker, who was the Rock Hill chapter's president, expressed his love and loyalty to the Hells Angels. He apologized to the club and its members for any problems he may have caused. He also expressed regret to his family and his bosses at McGirt Trucking in Charlotte, where he had worked for 25 years.
Baker said he had always been a part of three things – the Baker family, the trucking company and the Hells Angels.
"They all had one thing in common – loyalty, strength and honor," he said. "I will die a Baker. I will die working for McGirt Trucking. And I will die a Hells Angels."