A post from “Cossack Doc” to a Facebook friend in July 2014 said the Cossacks Motorcycle Club had permission from the Bandidos to wear a patch saying “Texas,” a state the Bandidos consider their home and territory.
But nearly seven months later, things had gone south. There were a number of clashes or confrontations between the two biker clubs around the state, according to testimony at the racketeering trial for two former top Bandidos leaders.
And on Friday, federal prosecutors played a recording from a body wire worn by a Bandidos national officer that captured then-Bandidos national vice president John Xavier Portillo discussing the ongoing battles. Portillo is on trial, along with Jeffrey Fay Pike, the former national president.
One of the clashes Portillo spoke about with Johnny Romo, a national sergeant at arms who had been secretly cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, was an ambush by Bandidos at a Fort Worth bar in December 2014 that left a supporter of the Cossacks shot dead.
“We’re not going to (expletive) around with them Cossacks, dude. It’s on,” Portillo said in the March 3, 2015, recording. “Our patch, our club, is at war with these (expletive).”
One of the lead investigators, DEA agent Chad Lloyd, testified that the recording shows the Bandidos aimed to strip the Cossacks of their Texas patches, that Portillo had increased membership dues to help pay legal costs for Bandidos members who might end up in legal trouble in the fight with the Cossacks, and that Portillo had informed Pike to turn his back so that he could claim ignorance of plans to attack Cossacks.
In the recording, Portillo talks about how fellow Bandidos had been hearing that the Cossacks were trying to get the Vagos Motorcycle Club and the Hells Angels to side with the Cossacks against the Bandidos. But Portillo told Romo that he'd spoken to a high-ranking officer of the Hells Angels who said he told the Cossacks to "(expletive) off."
Portillo also talked about how Bandidos had already beaten some Cossacks and forced them to shut down chapters in parts of the state. He also said he was going to send several Bandidos to Odessa as a show of force against the Cossacks there.
"A lot of people that care about this club are gonna go to jail. The rest of you guys, if you don't care, just pay," Portillo said in the recording. "I asked the guy in Houston to turn his back from what I'm gonna do."
Lloyd said "the guy in Houston" is Pike.
Portillo’s attorney, Mark Stevens, and Pike’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, took turns attacking Lloyd’s interpretation of Portillo’s statements. DeGuerin also argued that Pike had taken a leave from the club to recover from surgery, so he was not involved in any of the alleged plans to attack Cossacks.
Both attorneys also argued that neither Pike nor Portillo were at the Fort Worth bar, Gator’s, when biker Geoff Brady, a member of the Ghost Riders Motorcycle Club, was shot. In fact, both lawyers suggested that it was difficult to discern what happened, who started the fight and who fired.
“Our … defense is (Pike) didn’t know about it, we didn’t approve it and it’s just a regular bar fight,” DeGuerin told Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra, during one break when jurors were not in the courtroom.
In its last witness Friday, the government called musician Justin Owen Blakely, who testified he had just finished a set at the Gator’s bar when 10 to 15 Bandidos or more, some with clubs, large flashlights and at least one carrying a gun, stormed in through the front, back and side doors, apparently intent on fighting supporters of the Cossacks gathered inside. Blakely, who played at other biker bars before, said he recognized one of the Bandidos, known as “Drifter” as Blakely tried to bolt from the bar.
“As I hit the door, Drifter was face to face to me,” Blakely said. “I just stepped to the side and they came in and did what they did.”
Blakely said he heard two shots inside, but did not know who shot whom. But he said he peeked in and saw a wall of Bandidos shoving Brady out the door and beating him as the group fell over motorcycles parked outside. As Brady lay on the ground, Blakely said the Bandidos surrounded his body in a circle. Blakely said he heard about 20 gunshots and saw the flash from gunfire fire downward at or near Brady.
By the time police arrived, the Bandidos were gone. Brady, who was shot several times, died.
Last July, Howard “Drifter” Baker, president of the Bandidos Fort Worth chapter, was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being convicted at a trial for Brady’s murder, newspaper stories show.