Sunday, March 24, 2002

Families, friends defend Pagans jailed in New York

James "Timex" Hoback of Roanoke and other supporters say the Pagans went to New York simply as motorcycle enthusiasts.

Debbie Wells has been calling her sisters every night. They are not her blood sisters, but rather her sisters in angst.

Each of them loves a man who is now jailed in New York on state and federal charges. The 14 Western Virginia members of the Pagan Motorcycle Club were arrested during a fight with the Hells Angels at a Feb. 23 motorcycle and tattoo expo in Plainview, N.Y.

Since then, the wives and girlfriends have struggled to make house payments, comfort and raise their children, and defend their men.

"This has lost us everything," said Wells, of Vinton. "These are men that we love with all our hearts. Most of them have never been behind bars."

Nassau County police said the Pagans came from all over the East Coast and met at a pub, conspiring to crash the expo. Police said nearly 80 of them arrived in vans and cars at the ritzy Vanderbilt catering hall that afternoon and invaded the place, upsetting tables and brawling with Hells Angels.

The skirmish resulted in the death of one Pagan and injuries to almost a dozen others. Seventy-three Pagans were arrested and charged with federal racketeering, conspiracy, assault and firearms violations. A pile of guns and knives was confiscated from the area.

No Hells Angels were seriously hurt, and just one was arrested - the man who is charged with the shooting death of Robert Rutherford, a Pagan from Pennsylvania, police said.

Now one month later, the families of Virginia Pagans are angry about what they say are false depictions of their men as murderers, drug dealers and rowdy thugs.

"We know these men and we know their families, and we know they aren't going to hurt anybody," said Donna Tolley of Vinton, whose husband, Paul, is under arrest.

James "Timex" Hoback, a Roanoke mechanic, wanted to go to New York with his fellow Pagans, but he had to work that day.

He and other supporters say the Pagans went to the Vanderbilt simply as motorcycle enthusiasts. They say most of the men did not even make it out of their vehicles before they were grabbed by police and taken into custody. "I can tell you with all certainty that it wasn't planned," he said of the fight. "Everything pretty much happened when they pulled up."

Hoback is now one of the few Roanoke members who are free.

"I'm trying to help everybody and their family back here," he said. "It hurts me as much as it hurts them. Their old men are up the road there, and I wish I could do more for them."

The 14 Western Virginia Pagans incarcerated in New York have been in the club anywhere from one to 25 years. John Jones of Vinton has worked for ITT for a number of years, and Roanoker Stephen Johnston learned just before he left for New York that he was going to become a father.

Paul Tolley has a daughter and three grandchildren and had a good job as a technician at Pinkerton Chevrolet. His wife does not know if he has a job anymore.

Debbie Wells and David Guthrie, who met over a love of Harley-Davidsons, were best friends for nine years and were scheduled to marry soon. Guthrie worked for KelTech for 18 years, ever since it was Fibercom, but he probably does not work there anymore, Wells said.

"Our whole lives are just turned upside down," Wells said. "I mean, this is a man who did charity work." Research into the Pagan Motorcycle Club turns up descriptions of gang members who wear patches to indicate they have killed, who traffic most of the methamphetamine and PCP in the northeastern United States and who force their women to prostitute themselves to raise money for the club.

Phillip "Buzzard" Hawks of Wythe County, who is charged in New York but was released on $750,000 bond because he has severe diabetes, says people have the wrong idea about the club.

"No, I don't deny it," he said about being the president of the New River Valley Pagans. "I'm proud of the fact. We ain't out to mess with anybody. We just like riding our motorcycles and doing our thing."

He said the Pagans take part in toy runs and poker runs and have raised money for sick children. They take frequent road trips, or "runs," together, mostly to motorcycle conventions, where they socialize with other gangs, including the Hells Angels, he said.

Mike Grayson of Pulaski, a former Pagan whose brother William Grayson and nephew Jesse Grayson are jailed in New York, said the idea that local Pagans have killed people is absurd.

He said the patch worn by Roanoke chapter president John Jones has been called a murder patch by the media, but it probably represents a deceased brother or a road trip he took.

Donna Tolley and Debbie Wells say they have never seen Pagans do drugs, but Tolley said she can only speak for the men she knows.

Mike Grayson said money in the Pagan Defense Fund, which has been used to help wives travel to New York and see their husbands, came from members' own pockets.

"Obviously we can't pay 73 mortgages," he said.

Tiffany Dailey is selling her husband's motorcycle and other things to help pay for their home. Wells, a nurse, is caring for her fiance's elderly parents. He used to be their sole caregiver.

Each of the 15 men could face a minimum of 20 years in prison on federal charges and up to 36 years on state charges, so their families may have to get used to fending for themselves.

Said Tolley: "We have a family. We have a house. He had a job. We had a life."


Sixteen Virginians - all identified as members of the Pagans motorcycle gang - are under indictment in New York, charged with federal offenses in connection with a melee between the Pagans and the Hell's Angels at a motorcycle exhibit last month. It took authorities awhile to figure out who they had in custody because in some cases, defendants were known mostly by their nicknames. They are:

Stuart Berman, "Stinky," Staunton

Joseph Bryant, "Hammer" and "Grumpy," Roanoke

William Dailey, Roanoke

Timothy Dalton, "Names" and "Intention," Draper

Robert Francis, "Big Bob," Kilmarnock

William Grayson, "Tung Foo," Woolwine

David Guthrie, "Arlo," Vinton

Phillip Hawks, "Buzzard," Barren Springs

Ronnie James, "Hooch," Marion

Stephen Johnston, "Rambunxious," Roanoke

John Jones, "Hose-A," Vinton

Larry Mabry, "Harley," Pulaski

Charles Nichols, Jr., "Tombstone," Roanoke

Paul Tolley, "Tap," Vinton

Charles Torrent, "Igor," Gladys


Experts on motorcycle gangs say these groups constitute "the Big Four":

HELL'S ANGEL'S. Founded in Oakland, Calif. in the 1950s, they are considered "the original bad boys" and "the prototype for every outlaw motorcycle gang in the world." Were romanticized in the 1967 movie "Hell's Angel's on Wheels" starring Jack Nicholson and a book by Hunter S. Thompson, "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang."

PAGANS. An East Coast gang whose members are said to "rank among the fiercest outlaw bikers in the United States." Most chapters are between Maryland and New Jersey, but there's at least one chapter in Australia. Membership estimated at 900. Unlike other gangs, their "mother club," or governing body, does not have a specific location. Instead, mother club members wear a black number 13 on the back of their colors to indicate their special status.

BANDIDOS. Founded in 1966 in Houston, the Bandidos are called the fast-growing motorcycle gang in the country. Membership estimated at 500. Concentrated in Texas and parts of the South and Southwest, but with some chapters as far away as Washington state and Australia. Allied with the Outlaws.

OUTLAWS. Founded in 1959 in Chicago, although the mother club is now in Detroit. Based primarily in the Midwest, but with clubs as far away as Florida and Australia. Membership estimated at 900.

SOURCE: Southeastern Connecticut Gang Activities Group

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