Outlaws on Trial

Knoxville Outlaws president Mark Lester is due in court tomorrow (Friday) in Richmond, Va., for a status hearing. Lester was caught up in a massive nationwide FBI investigation of the Outlaws Motorcycle Clubs after a two-year undercover operation.

Lester, as head of the Knoxville chapter, was charged with racketeering. He is a welding engineer at a local company who usually travels the world doing tricky welding on difficult projects—like the housing on nuclear power plants on aircraft carriers and battleships.

Lester has been incarcerated in Richmond since 27 members of the club, mostly in Virginia, were indicted, primarily for planning and executing violence against rival Hell's Angels motorcycle gangs in turf battles. The FBI had an undercover informant in a Virginia chapter of the Outlaws for two years.

Four top leaders have been tried so far, in a week-long trial and four days of jury deliberation, with only one conviction out of the four. A defense lawyer, quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said the government spent a tremendous amount of money investigating "bar fights" between motorcycle gangs. Lester's Knoxville friends say the lack of convictions for top leaders of the national organization leave them hopeful Lester may be offered a deal and returned to Knoxville.