A Pasadena appeals court panel ruled Friday that the government cannot seize the logo of the Mongol Nation motorcycle club, but the court let a 2018 racketeering conviction stand.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision that cited the First and Eighth Amendments in a ruling rejecting the government’s forfeiture request of the club’s logo.
Stephen Stubbs, the Mongols’ general counsel, said in a statement that the ruling was “a victory not only for the Mongols Motorcycle Club, but for all motorcycle clubs, freedom, and America as a whole.”
The club, also called the Mongol Nation, is headquartered in Southern California and was originally formed in Montebello in 1969. Law enforcement officials estimate about 2,000 full-patched members are in the club.
The government has been prosecuting the Mongols since at least 2008, leading to the convictions of more than 70 members under racketeering and various other criminal statutes, according to the appeals court.
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Following those convictions, the government indicted the Mongol Nation on charges of racketeering conspiracy violations. A Santa Ana federal jury convicted the club on both charges, finding various forms of Mongol Nation property, including the club’s trademark cartoon drawing of a pony-tailed Genghis Khan-type character aboard a motorcycle, was subject to forfeit.
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A federal judge subsequently denied forfeiture of the trademarks, holding that under the circumstances of the case, forfeiture would be unconstitutional.
Mongol Nation appealed its conviction and sentence to the circuit court, and the government cross-appealed the order denying forfeiture of the trademarks.
The appellate panel affirmed the lower court’s ruling.
A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman declined comment.
Mongols attorney Stubbs said the club’s patch “is a symbol of the esteemed brotherhood of its members, and the Ninth Circuit stood strong against the government’s unconstitutional attempt to ban and extinguish important symbolic free speech.”
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