O'BRIEN: Jury sends message with biker club verdict

Posted: Mar. 19, 2013 6:17 am Updated: Apr. 30, 2013 8:15 am

Adams County State's Attorney Jon Barnard wasn't kidding when he addressed the jury for the first time last week during the robbery trial of Joseph. E. Teel Jr. of Barry.

"This isn't like the shows you see on TV," Barnard said. "It isn't going to be done in an hour."

By the time deliberations wrapped up early Friday night, the jury had spent nearly the entire week in the Adams County Courthouse. Prospective jurors waited around all day Tuesday as a jury was seated. The state put on its case Wednesday and Thursday, resting just before lunch Friday. Had Teel's defense attorney, Riff Scholz, presented any defense witnesses or evidence, the trial no doubt would have spilled into this week.

It was an interesting case, one fit for a "Law & Order" episode. Biker club vs. biker club, with the president of one club's freedom hanging in the balance. The arrest of Teel and three of his fellow Midwest Percenters drew headlines and led local television newscasts. It was like the TV show "Sons of Anarchy" had decided to film an episode in the Gem City. This was no TV drama though. What happened was real.

On May 20, two members of the Tunnel Rats motorcycle club were confronted by several members of the Midwest Percenters near downtown Quincy. According to testimony presented at trial, the Percenters claimed the Tunnel Rats members cruised past a motorcycle rally that was being held at a Broadway restaurant and "flipped off" the Percenters.

The Percenters didn't take too kindly to the gesture and let them know about it. The Tunnel Rats members said they were caught by members of the Percenters and stopped at the intersection of 12th and Hampshire.

"This isn't a (expletive) game," Percenter member Timothy E. "Gramps" Jackson allegedly yelled at the Tunnel Rats. "We'll (expletive) kill you. Give us your (expletive) cuts."

"Cuts" are the vests that members of motorcycle clubs wear. They are prized possessions. The Tunnel Rats, penned in by Percenters, didn't have much of a choice but to give up their cuts.

"Take them off, or I'll blow your (expletive) head off," Teel allegedly screamed at the Tunnel Rats while pointing a gun at the head of one of the bikers.

Since there was no gun found, the armed robbery charge came down to a "he said, he said" situation. Neither Teel nor any of the other Percenters took the stand. The jury found the testimony from the victims to be credible.

As a result, Teel was found guilty on all three charges -- armed robbery, aggravated robbery and robbery -- and could be imprisoned for up to 30 years when he's sentenced by Judge Mark Drummond on May 29. Jackson, Zane E. Liggett and Gerald R. Utterback are scheduled to go on trial for their roles in the incident.

Barnard commended the victims for not backing down.

"There is a lot of terror that goes in the motorcycle cult about not talking," he said. "They came forward and risked the consequences. They stood up, endured a lot of frustrating questions and said what happened."

The jurors sent a message with their verdict.

"You don't impose your will on someone in the middle of an intersection in broad daylight in this community," Barnard said. "This verdict puts an exclamation point on that. This is a victory for the community."




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