Catch us live on BlogTalkRadio every

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Former prison guard sentenced to 50 months in prison in Pagans case

BY: Andrew Clevenger
A former prison guard convicted of participating in a plot to retaliate against an incarcerated member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to 50 months in prison.
Michael Lloyd Stevens, 38, of Huntington, was convicted in July of helping hatch a plan to assault Vincent "Hot Rod" Morris, a Pagan who was an inmate at the federal prison in Ashland, Ky.
During his trial, Stevens admitted that he wanted Morris to stop running his mouth inside the prison about biker business, but denied knowing that Morris had cooperated with federal investigators. After he was arrested for robbing a Big Chimney bank in 2004, Morris provided information that helped capture and convict fellow Pagan Paul Edward "Pauley" Hysell in the heist.
Prosecutors maintained that Stevens -- whose brother, Richard Lee Stevens, was president of the Huntington chapter of the Last Rebels Motorcycle Club -- wanted to prove himself to the Pagans, who didn't allow anyone with any connection to law enforcement to be members or join their support clubs like the Last Rebels.
Although federal authorities uncovered the plot before anything happened to Morris, U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston told Stevens that his sentence needed to serve as a deterrent to others.
"Retaliating against a witness strikes against the criminal justice system itself. The prison system simply can't afford to have guards engaged in this kind of behavior," the judge said.
Johnston noted that Stevens had a good work history and had served in the military for 10 years, including a tour as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. But he couldn't tell whether Stevens had walked away from the outlaw biker world.
Stevens' role in the retaliation plot, as well as his utter refusal to cooperate or cut a deal with federal prosecutors, could have provided him with a way into the Pagans he had wanted, the judge said.
"If you stay away from the biker world, I think you're very unlikely to re-offend," he said.
Stevens did not address the court.

Defense attorney Jackie Hallinan asked Johnston to consider Stevens' relatively minor role in the Pagans case, which included 55 defendants from eight states.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Loew said that Stevens, a federal employee, had betrayed the trust of the prisoners he had been assigned to oversee.

"He engaged in this plot to shut up a witness who had cooperated with the feds," he said.

Johnston did give Michael Stevens a small break, sentencing him to 50 months in prison, lower than the 57 to 71 months recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.

However, the 50-month sentence is the harshest sentence to date in the Pagans case. John Maggio, a Virginia contractor who pleaded guilty to extortion for asking Floyd Moore, the Pagans' national vice president, for muscle to help collect five-figure business debts, was sentenced to 38 months in prison.

On Monday, Johnston sentenced David K. "Bart" Barbeito, the Pagans' national president, to 30 months in prison for possessing two illegal guns.

In a separate hearing on Tuesday, Johnston sentenced Richard Stevens, who had pleaded guilty to transporting a stolen motorcycle across state lines, to two years of probation.

Johnston had hesitated to accept the facts supporting Richard Stevens' plea, because the owner of the motorcycle voluntarily gave it to Stevens. The owner, who was going through a divorce at the time, told Stevens that he wanted to "get out from under" the motorcycle, implying that he was still paying for it and that it technically still belonged to the bank or financial institution that had financed its purchase.

Johnston told Richard Stevens that he would not be offended if Stevens appealed his decision to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, because the judge was interested in their interpretation of the application of the law to this case. He also fined him $1,000, the amount he accepted for passing the stolen bike on to a member of the Pagans.

Richard Stevens apologized for all of the pain and trouble he had caused, calling his behavior "one of the biggest mistakes I've [ever] made."

Defense attorney Gregory Campbell, noting that his client had served in the Gulf War, reminded Johnston that a registered nurse at the Veterans Administration hospital where Stevens works had written a letter, praising his contributions to his fellow veterans.

At the end of the hearing, Johnston said that he hoped that Stevens could continue to work at the hospital unless it was legally forbidden.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at or 304-348-1723.