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July 10, 1973 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1973-07-10

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Page Eight

THE SUMMER DAILY

Tuesday, July 10, 1973

New Angels: Big Time crime

By TIM REITERMAN
Associated Press Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Hell's Angels
have kicked into high gear.
Once content to invade small towns
and rough up other motorcycle clubs,
the Angels now have become what police
and informants describe as a full-blown
mob.
They are reported to have handled mil-
lions of dollars in narcotics, executed snit-
chers and secured police favors by, trad-
ing guns and explosives. Authorities say
the Angels designate 'hit men," issue them
weapons from club armories and order
them to kill informers and- others.
"THEY HAVE NO destiny in life ex-
cept getting loaded on drugs and selling
them to keep from going to work," form-
er Angels Vice President George "Baby
Huey" Wethern, a police informant, said
in an exclusive written interview. "Now
it seems they don't draw the line on
what they'll do to accomplish this."
On Halloween Day, 1972, a grim pic-
ture materialized.
Three Angels were arrested in the
slayings of two bikers whose rotting corp-
ses were excavated from Wethern's
ranch, a reputed Hell's Angels burying
ground near Ukiah, Calif. Authorities say
death contracts were but on the Wethern
family after he agreed to testify about
the club's criminal activities.
IN CALIFORNIA attorney general's
crime report has described the Angels as
"becoming large scale organized crime
operators." 'It also quoted U.S. Customs
estimates that the 300-member California
clan shipped more than $31 million in
narcotics from the West Coast to the
East Coast during one three year period.
In Oakland, high ranking Angels have
faced trial in the murder of a Texas
drug dealer found in the bathtub of a
burning home.
These events - together with the We-
thern interview, and interviews with law
enforcement oficials and current club

members - portray a motorcycle gang
characterized by comaraderie and a code
of ethics bearing the threat of death.
THE ANGELS have been cast as killers
and thugs, anti-social folk heroes and
matinee idols, patriots and racists. But
certain aspects of their image never
change - chain whipping toughness, un-
predictability and frightening loyalty to
their "colors," or winged skull 'emblems
worn on their sleeveless denim jackets.

victions or narcotics, illegal weapons and
forced imprisonment charges. And he fac-
es charges of federal income tax evasion.
ONLY TIME will show how well the
Angels will weather the leadership
vacuum created by the separate crim-
inal convictions of Barger and three of his
top lieutenants.
After police raiders got past his six-
foot fence and Dobermann Pinscher watch
dogs last December, they said they found

'The Angels are dealing in guns because they like
guns mainly. They don't deal with subversive groups. Not
groups like the Weathermen. Not the Black Panthers
either, because the Angels are notorious racists.'
--an Oakland investigator

Through trials and transitions two things
have kept the club together: their snarl-
ing bikes or "choppers," raked low and.
mean and tuned for speed; -and Ralph
"Sonny" Barger, the Hell's Angel's Hell's
Angel.
"It was Sonny who got Iny first motor-
cycle running for me," says Wethern ilB
his handwritten reply to questions sub-
mitted to federal authorities and relayed
to him by U.S. marshals. "In those days
it was just a bunch of guys riding m.c.'s
(motorcycles) and-having a good time.
"THE FIRST TIME I put on the colors,
I felt proud because it brought atten-
tion from outsiders and a sense of be-
longing."
But when Wethern, 33, a bearded 270-
pound man, rejoined the club after a few
inactive years in the mid-1960's, he found
the Hell's Angels had become a fulltime
job. "My activities consisted of trying to
have a good time, getting loaded on mari-
juana and drugs, and dealing in drugs.".
Despite the acquittal of Barger and his
co-defendants in the Oakland murder trial,
his legal problems continue. He has re-
ceived a 10-year-tW-life sentence for con-

three pistols in Barger's bedroom, an
unidentified human skull on the dresser
and five other guns scattered throughout
the houses.
Like the leader, many Hell's Angels are
gun afficionados.
During Barger's eight-week murder trial,
it emerged that the Angels had an ar-
rangement with police.
"IF WE COME into possession of guns
and explosives, we don't like to keep
them around," Barger testified. "We turn
them in hoping they - the police - will
do something for us."
Oakland Police Sgt. Ted Hilliard con-
firmed in court that the Angels had trad-
ed hundreds of guns and hundreds of
pounds of explosives for bail reductions
and other considerations. He also s a i d
Barger had offered to deliver the body
of one Weatherman radical for each Hell's
Angel released from prison, an offer
Barger denied making.
The contraband arrangement was need-
ed to help stem a spate of 80 bombings
in Oakland and Berkeley in the late 1960's
and early 1970's, testified Hilliard, now a
district attorney's investigator.

WEAPONS - stolen from armories and
gun shops, or smuggled from abroad -
come to the Angels because they have
a reputation for silence. "Hell's Angels
informants are damn few and far be-
tween" said one Oakland investigator.
"Let's face it, they kill a guy for snitch-
ing.",
"The Angels are dealing in guns be-
cause they like guns mainly," he added.
"They don't deal with subversive groups.
Not groups like the Weathermen. Not the
Black Panthers either, because the An-
gels are notorious racists."
Wethern, Oakland vice president for
one year in the late 1950's, had some 35
guns in his personal collection, including
sophisticated NATO weapons from a Swiss
armory.
WETHERN WAS a retired Angel at-
tempting a gradual move from Oakland
to the Mendocino County coastal region
when authorities found three bodies buried
on his 153-acre ranch.
"I wanted to get myself and my family
out of the drug environment and into a
healthier way of life," he said. "I want-
ed the ranch to become a happy place
and a home for my family and a home
for families of a few close friends who
wanted to get away from it too.
"But I was doing it all wrong," he
wrote. "I was taking some of the things
I was trying to get away from with me
- mainly the drugs and some of the con-
nections with people that I really didn't
want to have anything to do with."
THE ATTORNEY said the bodies were
brought to the ranch as a sort of debt
payment to another club member whom
Wethern had wounded with a pistol.
Shooting a fellow Angel violated the
club's code, so Wethern was indebted to
both the member and the club.
While in jail, Wethern tried to gouge
his eyes out with sharpened pencils. The
sheriff said he was distraught from the
"pressure" of having sold out friends.

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