Jesse Ventura, the former pro wrestler-turned-governor, could not get a hold on the jury.
He testified that he was a Mongol back in the 1970s, but it was not a criminal gang. It was a motorcycle club, he said.
Jurors didn't believe it, and found the gang was a criminal enterprise involved in murder, attempted murder, and drug dealing. The judge, however, had a stunning difference of opinion.
First of Its Kind
Judge David O. Carter upheld their racketeering verdict, except for one "first-of-its-kind" thing. Prosecutors wanted to take away the Mongol image and patch, a symbol of membership.
Carter said, basically, you can't do that. It's about the First Amendment, freedom of association, and the right of expression.
Stephen Stubbs, a Mongols attorney, said it was a victory for the club and freedom of speech. He called it a win for motorcycle clubs everywhere.
"The government has clearly overreached into a realm that the Constitution does not allow," he told the Los Angeles Times. "They tried to ban symbolic speech."
U.S. prosecutors were stunned by the reversal and will "definitely" appeal.
They have worked the case for 10 years, winning criminal convictions against 77 members of the gang in 2008. In the forfeiture proceedings, U.S. Attorney Christopher told jurors grizzly accounts of murder.
The Mongols group began in Montebello, a suburb of Los Angeles, in 1969. According to reports, more than 1,000 riders belong to chapters around the world.