Florida - The nationally notorious Outlaws Motorcycle Club has roots in Jacksonville that include its backing of a smaller club whose vice president was sentenced in a federal drug case Tuesday, the prosecutor said.
Johnnie Lee Gilford's defense attorney portrayed Gilford's chapter of the Outcast Motorcycle Club as a fraternity of hard-working, non-violent men who used a clubhouse in Northwest Jacksonville to party.
But federal prosecutor Jay Taylor described the Outcast as a violent criminal gang blessed by the even more dangerous Outlaws, whose leaders allowed the Outcast to wear a special patch that signifies scofflaw pride.
The FBI targeted Gilford, 51, as part of a federal wiretap of Outcast members suspected of dealing in stolen motorcycles. Gilford was caught discussing drug sales and got busted after repeatedly selling an informant cocaine in 2011 and last year.
His attorney, Wade Rolle, and Taylor agreed Gilford sold the cocaine to feed an addiction by skimming some. They also agreed the men who sold the drugs to Gilford were not Outcast members.
Senior federal Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. seemed bewildered by the suggested link between the two groups after pointing out the Outlaws are white and the Outcast are black. He also questioned the relevance either group had to Gilford's drug sales.
Adams sentenced Gilford to a year in prison on a charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Taylor argued for a stiffer sentence, insisting that the wiretap includes evidence of violent crimes and other trouble committed by the Outcast. But the details remain sealed in an affidavit that is part of an ongoing investigation. Taylor sought to protect that probe rather than have Adams unseal the affidavit and consider it before sentencing.
Adams cited Gilford's decorated 20-year Navy career, his regular carpentry work and the need for him to care for his sick wife as mitigating factors in the sentencing decision. He ordered him into drug treatment and to stay clear of the Outcast. He also placed him on three years of probation and warned him not to get rearrested.
Gilford apologized to his wife and family.
"I'm a proud man," Gilford said. "I made a mistake."
Taylor told Adams that the Outcast chapter was a bona fide crime gang that included 12 to 15 members. He said they wore patches signifying them as the "1 % ers" - a name commonly used by motorcycle riders and clubs who consider themselves above the law. Taylor said the Outcast needed approval from the Outlaws before donning the patches, though he did not say what either group gained by the backing.
"They couldn't wear the 1 percent patches without the permission of the Outlaws," Taylor said.
Rolle, a self-proclaimed motorcycle enthusiast, said he visited the Outcast clubhouse during the case and found the men to be gainfully employed and fun-loving. He said the president told him he worked for Southern Bell for more than 20 years.
"This is a bunch of guys who get together and drink and ride motorcycles," Rolle said.
The Atlanta-based Outcast have been tracked by federal agents nationwide for their involvement in violence, drug sales and other crime. In Jacksonville, an Outcast member was convicted in the 2011 of shooting of a rival club member in the head. The victim survived.
The FBI considers the Outlaws among the most dangerous motorcycle gangs in the country. The local chapter is known to have links to showgirl bars, which first became public when they were linked to the ownership of the Gold Club showgirl bar in 1997 during an investigation into entertainment code violations. Police raided the local chapter's clubhouse in 2007 when 60 guns were seized and 2011 as part of federal drug investigations