- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

PLAINVIEW, N.Y. By their own account, the Pagans needed "to show face" as the rival Hell's Angels staged a widely publicized biker convention on Long Island turf the Pagans once dominated and still consider their own.
The resulting melee at the Hell's Angels' "Hellraisers Ball" resulted in one death and at least 10 injuries. It also raised fears that this was not a one-time confrontation between the motorcycle clubs.
"This was a first salvo in the gang war," said Yves Lavigne, author of several books about motorcycle gangs.
"By putting on a public display like this, they are sending a message that they control the area and if anyone wants to do business in that area, they're going to have to do it with them," Mr. Lavigne said of the Hell's Angels.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Conway said incidents in recent weeks had increased tensions between the groups. He would not elaborate, but Newsday reported a spate of recent defections to the Hell's Angels by Pagans from Maryland.
Then came the Feb. 23 Hellraisers Ball, a motorcycle and tattoo expo held at a catering hall.
It took two hours for dozens of state and local police to restore order. They seized hundreds of weapons, from knives, bats and brass knuckles to handguns, shotguns and a Tech-9 machine pistol.
A Hell's Angel is charged with murder in the killing of a Pagan. More than 70 Pagans face federal charges of plotting the assault.
"When you have this type of invasion, there's going to be obvious consequences," said George Knox, director of the Illinois-based National Gang Crime Research Center.
Prosecutors say the Pagans Long Island's dominant gang until their ranks were thinned by federal prosecutions in 1998 were outraged that the Hell's Angels scheduled an event on what the Pagans see as their home turf.
Among those at the Hellraisers Ball were Sonny Barger, the Angels' leader, and Chuck Zito, a member who appears in "Oz," the HBO series about prison life.
Prosecutors say 80 Pagans, some from Maryland and Pennsylvania, met on the day of the confrontation to devise a plan of attack. A small group of Pagans reportedly made a reconnaissance visit to draw maps of the catering hall where the expo was being held.
Some of those who piled into 10 vans and headed to the expo had written out their wills, and three or four were wearing bulletproof vests, prosecutors said.
When they entered the expo, they started knocking over tables, and fighting broke out, police said. Some of the confiscated weapons were found on those inside the hall and some were found on people in the parking lot.
Mark Lancaster, a Pittsburgh lawyer who represents the Pagans, contends the gang members were entitled to attend the expo and were victims of aggressive behavior by the Hell's Angels.
"They were there to show face," he said. "And show they're not afraid of the Hell's Angels despite the absence of Pagans from the Long Island community."
The Hell's Angels claim about 2,500 members in 200 chapters worldwide. The Pagans' reach is smaller, with 90 chapters in the eastern United States.
Both gangs date to the 1940s, when some returning World War II veterans formed motorcycle groups. Both have long criminal histories marked with conspiracy, racketeering and drug charges.
Mr. Lavigne predicts any further violence will come quietly.
"You may hear about assassinations on expressways, vans pulling alongside guys on bikes and opening fire this summer," the author said. "You won't have big rumbles this is something that will be done professionally."

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