Monday, June 04, 2001

Biker testifies against leader

Ex-Outlaw wants witness protection

The Associated Press

        TOLEDO — The testimony of a former Toledo man who became national vice president of the Outlaws motorcycle gang played a major role in convicting the group's alleged kingpin.

        Wayne Hicks, 46, was the highest-ranking member of the Outlaws to testify against Harry “Taco” Bowman, who was convicted in April of ordering the killings of rival gang members, firebombings and other crimes.

        “In the world of motorcycle gangs, this is like Sammy "The Bull' Gravano telling all he knows about John Gotti,” Lt. Terry Katz of the Maryland State Police told the Toledo Blade.

        Mr. Bowman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced July 27.

        At the trial, Mr. Hicks described years of killings, bombings and other violence that he said Mr. Bowman ordered.

        Mr. Hicks pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 1997, admitting he helped plan a 1991 slaying of a rival club leader.

        During his appearance, he said he feared for his life and was trying to be accepted into the federal witness protection program.

        “I know myself. I'm targeted as a snitch, my life would be in danger,” he said. He is in custody in Florida, awaiting sentencing on the conspiracy charge.

        Members of the Outlaws refuse to talk about Mr. Hicks' testimony, saying he is an opportunist who lied to save himself.

        Defense lawyer Stephen Crawford, who has represented other Outlaws, says Mr. Hicks' testimony was critical to the government's case.

        Mr. Hicks has been involved with motorcycle gangs since the 1970s and served 34 months of a five- to 25-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter in the 1978 stabbing death of another biker in Toledo.

        He has known Mr. Bowman since the early 1980s, when he joined the Outlaws.

        Mr. Hicks rose to become second in the organization, which at one time had as many as 1,200 members, but decided to leave the gang in 1995.

        “My heart wasn't in it any more,” he testified. “Between all the funerals, all the people going to jail, I wanted to get away from it all.”

        One year later, Mr. Hicks and nine other Outlaws were indicted on a variety of federal charges including murder, drug dealing, and firebombings. Mr. Hicks was indicted on 12 charges, 11 of which have been dropped in return for his testimony against Mr. Bowman.

        Officials say the Outlaws are much less influential than they were a few years ago because membership has dropped to about 300, with many former members dead or in prison.


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