A federal judge Thursday ordered the release of Kenneth Earl Hause, the 61-year-old national president of the Gypsy Jokers Outlaw Motorcycle Club, who is charged in an alleged racketeering conspiracy.
But U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones placed Hause on home detention with electric monitoring and said he must resign immediately from his role as leader of the motorcycle gang and not associate with any current or former Gypsy Joker members as he awaits trial.
Hause’s defense lawyer, Todd Bofferding, called his client a “man of honor” and described him as an ailing grandfather who has the widespread support of his local community in Aumsville — from the chief of police to waitresses in the small Marion County town of about 3,580 people.
Hause also can’t get the medical care he needs in jail for his congenital heart failure, Bofferding said. Though he has a past criminal record, it’s old and he hasn’t been convicted of a crime in 15 years, his lawyer said.
“I don’t believe he’s now the man the government believes he is,’’ Bofferding said.
Prosecutors vigorously opposed Hause’s release, contending that at his direction as the “Wiz” or “The Boss’’ of the gang, fellow Gypsy Jokers kidnapped, tortured and murdered a former club member.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mygrant called Hause the “chief enforcer of this criminal enterprise,’’ a motorcycle club he said that prides itself on being a “1 percenter’’ group of outlaws, apart from the 99 percent of motorcyclists who abide by the law.
Hause has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Four co-defendants who remain in custody are accused of racketeering but also are charged in the 2015 torture and killing of former club member Robert Huggins, who was kicked out for stealing money and for his intravenous drug use, prosecutors said. The killing was in retaliation for Huggins’ burglary and robbery at the Woodburn home of Portland’s Gypsy Jokers president Mark Leroy Dencklau. Dencklau’s then-girlfriend was tied up during the robbery.
Once Dencklau learned of the robbery, the first call he made was to Hause, and Hause went to Denklau’s house, Mygrant said. For the next 25 days, the club’s members carried out a “manhunt’’ for Huggins, ultimately kidnapping him and dumping his body in Woodland, Washington, where he was found dead, according to prosecutors.
“This organization had a hit out for Bobby Huggins, and the prime shot caller was this man,’’ Mygrant said of Hause.
Hause, his hair pulled back in a pony tail with a bushy gray beard, wore a black-and-gray-striped jail suit as he sat beside his lawyer in the Portland courtroom.
Hause’s lawyer argued that prosecutors have no evidence that ties Hause to Huggins’ murder. All they have is a phone call, but they’re “guessing’’ what was discussed during the call, he said.
Hause’s wife heard him on one end of that call offering emotional support to Dencklau upon hearing of the robbery, Bofferding said.
“At no time did he order a hit,’’ the defense lawyer told the court.
The judge then asked the prosecution: “Do you have a witness who’ll testify this defendant directly ordered the torture murder?’’
“We do not,’’ Mygrant answered.
Prosecutors, though, argued that Hause had engaged in brutal beatings of club members and barroom brawls with rivals, distributed methamphetamine and issued threats to kill those who talked to police. His violent behavior didn’t result in arrests or convictions in recent years because he was “protected’’ as others feared his reprisals if they went to police, Mygrant said.
Investigators in this case have already moved several witnesses out of state, fearing intimidation from the defendants or their supporters, prosecutors said. Dencklau, for example, is accused of sending two Gypsy Jokers to find a key witness in the case, according to Mygrant.
During a search of Hause’s house in Aumsville in January, investigators found a photo of a man that had the word “snitch’’ scrawled on it, according to court documents.
“He may not be the person who personally goes out and intimidates witnesses, but he has the ability to influence others,’’ Mygrant told the judge.
A defendant can intimidate potential witnesses just as easily from behind bars as from home, Bofferding argued. The judge agreed.
Jones decided to release Hause, citing his long-standing family ties to Aumsville, his motorcycle repair business there and his medical issues. The judge added that it’s hard to detain Hause without the government having “direct proof’’ that he issued an order to kill Huggins.
The judge requested monitoring of Hause’s cellphone and told him not to leave home, except for doctor appointments or court hearings.
— Maxine Bernstein
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org