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Motorcycle club suing Riverside Co. officials for defamation

March 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A motorcycle club is suing Riverside County law enforcement authorities, past and present, claiming they falsely linked club members to a series of attacks against Hemet police.

Last year, the city of Hemet was under attack. Pipe bombs and other booby traps were set, targeting police officers and agents in Riverside County's Gang Task Force.

"There's a person or people out there, a bunch of idiots trying to do damage to us," said former Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana.

The thought among some was that a street gang had declared war on law enforcement. Then in March of last year, the district attorney conducted a sting operation on a group known by the California attorney general as the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

"Within the last few months, the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang has gotten our significant attention," said former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. "Today we've delivered and returned some of that significant attention, and we intend to continue in that effort."

But now that two people have been arrested and charged with the Hemet attacks, people who are not affiliated with the Vagos group, the Vagos group is suing a number of public officials for defamation and violation of civil rights.

"They have been clumped together with every other group that people find despicable," said Attorney Joe Yanny who represents the Vagos group. "And it's totally wrong. They've been tarred long enough that it's time to put an end to it."

In the criminal complaint, the Vagos group identifies a number of times that people in the district attorney's office referred to their group as a gang. But they said they're not a gang at all, they call themselves a motorcycle club."

"This is a decent group of men who've been wrongfully blamed for the acts that happened in Hemet," said Yanny.

Yanny also said the whole matter could probably be resolved with an apology by public officials who made the comments. But so far those public officials aren't commenting because of the pending litigation.