Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | 1 p.m.
Saying their civil rights have been violated, a group of motorcycle clubs — including some that local police consider to be criminal gangs — has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Metro and North Las Vegas police departments and several officers.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nevada by the Southern Nevada Confederation of Clubs, a Las Vegas-based organization that includes 37 Las Vegas motorcycle clubs.
The complaint alleges that members of the Mongols, Bandidos, Vagos and Stray Cats motorcycle clubs were “unlawfully targeted and harassed” by the two police departments.
Stephen Stubbs, attorney for the motorcycle clubs, said in a statement released to the media that Metro Police Detective Joseph Gagliardi led most of the violations, which Stubbs alleged have lasted for years.
Fourteen Metro officers and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie are also specifically named as defendants. North Las Vegas Police Chief Joe Chronister is also named. The lawsuit also said the clubs reserved the right to add other North Las Vegas officers’ names to the lawsuit who had not yet been identified.
A representative for Metro said the department was planning to release a statement soon about the lawsuit. Sgt. Tim Bedwell, a public information officer for North Las Vegas police, said he was aware the lawsuit had been filed, but the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The suit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 on each of 15 different claims for relief and also punitive and exemplary damages in excess of $75,000.
Among the claims is that Las Vegas and North Las Vegas police wrongfully contacted local businesses and threatened to revoke their liquor licenses if they served certain motorcycle club members or allowed them to frequent their establishments, Stubbs said.
Stubbs based the lawsuit on the Feb. 2, 2002, Nevada Supreme Court's ruling that says revoking a privileged license for associating with others is a First Amendment violation, citing the case of Burgess v. Storey County Board of Commissioners.
The lawsuit also alleges that Metro forced a local hotel to cancel reservations for Mongol members or face the repercussions of the police blockading the entire property and searching all of those entering or leaving the property. Stubbs provided a copy of a letter dated June 24, 2010, from the general manage of Alexis Park All Suite Resort in Las Vegas informing Roger Espinoza, a Mongols member, of the cancellation because of that information from police.
The suit also alleges that “without a warrant or probable cause,” police raided a private gathering of Stray Cats members on Jan. 12 and forced them to leave their own property. Stubbs also says that a “tazer was brandished and officers repeatedly told motorcycle club members that they have ‘no constitutional rights on the streets of North Las Vegas.’”
The suit also alleges that police repeatedly visited a member of the Bandidos club at his place of employment, Medic West Ambulance, and told his supervisor he was associating with a criminal motorcycle club linked to stabbings and shootings and that the club was interested in him because of his access to controlled substances. The suit also alleges that once the Bandidos member was fired from the job last November after 12 years of service, police visited other potential employers telling them the member was under investigation and that he had not been able to find a job.
The lawsuit also alleges that police sought out and arrested a Bandidos member on a false warrant on Sept. 11, 2011.