Catch us live on BlogTalkRadio every

Tuesday & Thursday at 6pm P.S.T.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kentucky Pagan acquitted of gun possession

Off the Wire
MCs in the News

By Andrew Clevenger

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal jury in Charleston acquitted a Kentucky member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club Tuesday on charges that he possessed a gun during a tense standoff between members of the club's governing body in Virginia in 2008.

The jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning its verdict of not guilty.

Kim H. Berryman, 51, of Lancaster, Ky., who was called "Bear" or "Little Bear" in the biker world, was barred from possessing a gun because of a previous felony conviction.

"I know the law. I don't carry a gun," Berryman testified Tuesday.

From the witness stand, Berryman refuted the image of the Pagans as a dangerous outlaw motorcycle gang presented by prosecutors, who maintained that an internal conflict between Mother Club members Floyd B. "Jesse" Moore, of St. Albans, and Michael "White Bear" Grayson, of Barren Spring, Va., produced a tense armed standoff at a mandatory Pagans event in 2008.

"The whole time that I was around [the Pagans], I've never seen any violence. I've never seen anyone get hit, I've never seen anyone get shot," he said. "If I did, do you think I'd let my teenage son around them?"

Berryman said he sometimes brought his wife or son to Pagans events, but didn't bring anyone to the June 2008 gathering because Moore told members under his command that federal agents had warned him that there was a threat to his life.

Ultimately, Berryman, who left the Pagans in the spring of 2009, found all the talk of potential violence between Moore and Grayson a little overblown.

When Moore's contingent, which included Pagans from West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, arrived at the freshly mown hayfield where the event took place and turned off their motorcycles, Grayson hollered, "Welcome to Virginia!" Berryman said.

Berryman said he didn't even know what kind of gun he was supposed to have possessed, he said.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blaire Malkin, Berryman said he didn't know anything about a violent clash with members of the Hells Angels, a rival motorcycle gang, on Long Island in 2002. That incident resulted in 73 Pagans being convicted on federal charges.

Berryman said that happened before he joined the club in 2007, and he hadn't heard anyone ever discuss it.

He also said he had never seen a "Free the 73" patch on anyone's cuts, as the signature sleeveless denim jackets are known. He also denied seeing a "TCB" patch, which Malkin said stands for "Taking Care of Business."

Malkin showed him a surveillance photograph, taken surreptitiously by ATF agent Don Sager, now retired, of Berryman on a motorcycle, embarking on the trip from Charleston to Virginia for the 2008 meeting. She identified a "GFPD" patch, which she said stands for "God Forgives, Pagans Don't."

James Ronnie Howerton, a member of the Pagans known as "Pagan Ronnie" who worked as an informant for the FBI from 2004 until the racketeering indictment against 55 members and associates of the Pagans was unsealed in October 2009, testified as a defense witness.

He said he didn't see a gun on Berryman, whom he knew to be a convicted felon. If he had, he would have reported it to his handlers, he said.

Howerton said much of the tension between the Virginia and West Virginia Pagans had to do with him. Grayson was worried that Howerton was going to take his place in the Mother Club, and be given control over Virginia, which was Grayson's territory, he said.

Prosecutors called several members of the Pagans to testify, who had all entered plea deals of their own. One, James "Bones" Claypool II, said that when he asked Berryman at the hayfield if he had brought a gun as instructed, Berryman said he had and patted his vest, indicating he had a gun underneath.

All the Pagans in Moore's contingent were expected to perform guard duty at the Virginia event, he said. There was a 12-gauge pump shotgun tucked underneath Moore's trailer within easy reach for the guards to use if necessary, he said.

"We had a roving patrol, three guys set up at the door of the camper" where Moore slept, he said. "Pretty much everyone was on 24-hour alert."

Another, William "Danimal" Copen, said he brought a gun, which he could legally carry thanks to a concealed weapons permit. When he came down with a migraine headache that kept him confined in his tent for most of the event, he loaned it to another Pagan he trusted, he said, but he never saw Berryman with a gun.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Richard Weston told the jury that the government didn't have any evidence that Berryman had possessed a gun.

"This basically has been a trial about guilt by association," he said.

The government's witnesses were motivated to cooperate in order to try to reduce their own prison sentences, he said.

"They're trying to take their sentences and put it on someone else," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Loew said that Berryman's testimony had not been credible.

"What good is a guard if they're not carrying a gun, or have access to a gun?" he said. "He wants you to believe that he joined the Pagans, an outlaw motorcycle club, and didn't know they were involved in criminal activity."

After the verdict was read in the courtroom, Berryman's wife began crying in the gallery. As the jury left, Berryman nodded at them and mouthed the words, "Thank you."

Of the 55 members and associates of the Pagans named in the sweeping, 44-count racketeering indictment, only one defendant, Eric "Fritz" Wolfe, of St. Albans, still has charges pending. Wolfe's trial on charges of being an illegal drug user in possession of a gun is scheduled to start Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.

Reach Andrew Clevenger at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 304-348-1723.

original article