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6 Devils Diciples guilty of racketeering, drug charges

George Hunter and Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Six members of the Devils Diciples motorcycle club were found guilty Friday of various federal charges including racketeering and drug-dealing, while one defendant, described by his attorney as a "fringe member of the club," was expected to walk free after being exonerated.

The guilty verdicts against the six members, including the club's national president and vice president, would help federal prosecutors obliterate what they labeled a gang that waged terror in several states, including three murders and brass-knuckle beatings.

The longtime national president of the club, Jeff "Fat Dog" Smith, 60, of Mount Clemens, was found guilty of all charges, including RICO conspiracy, conducting an illegal gambling business and witness tampering. The vice president, Paul "Pauli" Darrah, 50, of Macomb Township, also was found guilty on all charges.

"These defendants were responsible for violence and trafficking in methamphetamine in Macomb County and across the country," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. "We are grateful for the work of the investigating agencies and the jury to bring them to justice."

Added Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division: "For too many years the Devils Diciples spread fear and violence throughout Michigan and the country. This outlaw motorcycle gang thrived on intimidation and its ability to avoid prosecution – but no longer. Through these convictions, we have decimated the gang and its leadership and helped secure justice for the communities they harmed."

Scott "Scotty Z" Sutherland, 49, of Redford Township, was found not guilty of RICO conspiracy and drug-dealing. He had pleaded guilty several months ago to being a felon in possession of a firearm, although his attorney, Craig A. Daly, said he served his time and was expected to be released Friday.

"He can go home now," Daly said after the verdicts were announced. "He'll have to start over; he lost his job (as a welder), lost his house. Now he's lost it all.

"He wanted to jump up and hug me (when the verdict was announced), but I told him he couldn't until the judge got off the bench," Daly said of his client, who is married with two young children. Daly added that Sutherland was a "fringe member" of the club.

The jury of seven women and five men were deadlocked on two charges, RICO conspiracy and conspiracy to manufacture, distribute or possess with intent controlled substances, against David Drozdowski. But jurors did find him guilty of charges of assault in aid of racketeering, aiding and abetting, and felon in possession of ammunition.

Sentencing will likely be in about four months, court officials said.

A few of the jurors wept during the hearing in U.S. District Court, as did relatives of the defendants.

"This was hard on the jurors," Smith's attorney, Jerome Sabbota said. "It's not easy to make a decision to put a man in prison."

After the hearing, Sharon Witort, wife of defendant Vincent "Holiday" Witort, 64, of California, who also was found guilty on all charges, congratulated Marie Sutherland, wife of Scott Sutherland, for his exoneration.

"That's what we do," she said. "We're a family. I told her I'm happy her husband is getting out."

The motorcycle club, with the intentionally misspelled name, is based in Clinton Township.

Formed in 1967, the Devils Diciples has about 150 members, rigid rules, heavily guarded clubhouses and chapters in Chesterfield Township, Bay City, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Clinton Township, Port Huron and Utica.

Prosecutors alleged the Devils Diciples was a violent, organized crime ring. The gang members allegedly generated cash by stealing and selling motorcycles, running gambling dens, selling marijuana and Vicodin and peddling meth cooked in Metro Detroit homes or imported from across the country.

Defense lawyers insisted the Devils Diciples was a disjointed club, members were not involved in organized crime and that the government's case was built on testimony from felons, liars, paid informants and drug addicts seeking leniency for their own crimes.

Sabbota vowed to appeal the verdict.

"This was just the first round," he said. "There were issues that will be raised on appeal. I would never criticize a jury that worked as hard as this one did, but there were rulings that kept certain things from the jury, and those will be appealed."

Sabbota insisted his client, who ran the club, was innocent. "Most people think because he's the president, like Obama, that he's responsible for everything," he said.

Sabbota added that his client and the other guilty defendants were "looking at big numbers (in terms of years in prison)."

Kimberly Stout, attorney for Vincent Witort, said: "My client's 64 years old, so it's a life sentence."

The three-week deliberations followed a nearly four-month trial in the first wave of Devils Diciples prosecutions. The trial was notable for the size and scope of crimes allegedly committed by more than 40 gang members charged in federal court, some of whom faced up to life in prison if convicted of crimes dating to the early 1990s.

The trial also was notable for the contrast between the government's violent portrait of bikers who, after 20 years of alleged criminal activity and cooking methamphetamine, appeared paunchy, feeble or deathly ill.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland presided over the trial.

The other guilty defendants were: Cary "Gun Control" Vandiver, 55, of Alabama; and Patrick "Magoo" McKeoun, 56, of Alabama.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134