Federal law enforcement considers the Mongols MC one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the country. Mongols members have been arrested and tried for murder, money laundering, and drug trafficking, among other felonies. So, for more than a decade, the feds have been working to seize control of the Mongols’ U.S.-trademarked logo in hopes of denying the club its unifying symbol.
They got one step closer on January 13, when a jury determined the club’s logo was associated with a racketeering conviction a group of the club’s leadership was handed in December.
Although asset forfeiture law typically pertains to physical property, Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School, points out, “The government has been ‘seizing’ internet domain names for several years in response to allegations of copyright and trademark infringement, so using the asset forfeiture laws to reach intangible assets isn’t unprecedented.
“Seizing something like a trademark raises constitutional questions about free speech that seizing a car or house doesn’t,” Lemley says.
The presupposition that individual rights are irrevocable is somewhat erroneous—what the philosopher Jeremy Bentham calls “nonsense upon stilts.” Justice for one is the gallows for another. But for the Mongols, it’s never been about the individual, and their defense makes that clear.
Mongols defense attorney, Joseph Yanny, says: “The most important issue is the right of association. These guys have an absolute right to associate. They have an absolute right to express that association.”
Yanny doesn’t mince his words: “This battle is far from over.”