Jacking-Up “Milwaukee Jack”

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice in Richmond, Virginia unsealed the indictments of 23 members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.  The charges alleged include acts of kidnapping, attempt murder, drug dealing, assault, and illegal gambling. One of the Outlaws under indictment is Jack Rosga, also known as “Milwaukee Jack,” the purported national leader of the Outlaws MC. 

The Outlaws consider themselves a motorcycle club, although many within law enforcement circles believe—since they sport colors, have bylaws, and maintain a hierarchy—this group is an organized crime outfit that meets the federal definition of a criminal enterprise. In the late 1990s, the federal government indicted and later obtained convictions of several members from the Outlaws Wisconsin chapters. The charges stemmed, in part, from at least three homicides.

The outlaw motorcycle idiom is a derivative of a July 4, 1947 Gypsy Tour motorcycle event held in Hollister, California.  Over 4,000 motorcycle enthusiasts, as well as a dozen motorcycle clubs, including the Booze Fighters, the Top Hatters, and the Pissed of Bastards of Bloomington, packed the Bolado racetrack near the city’s outskirts.

It was events in the town’s center, however, that forever etched the surly image of bad boy bikers in the minds of mainstream society.

Sponsored by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), the number of bikers in attendance — almost the equivalent of Hollister’s population at the time — overwhelmed authorities. Over the July 4 weekend, fights, motorcycle accidents, and other acts of drunken hooliganism resulted in nearly 50 arrests and 60 injuries.  Soon, photos of intoxicated bikers filled newspapers and appeared in Life Magazine.

In response to the media attention, the secretary of the AMA, Lin Kuchler, said, “The disreputable cyclists were possibly one percent of the total number of motorcyclists, only one percent are hoodlums and troublemakers.”  Outlaw bikers quickly seized on the label and, to this day, proudly don “1%” patches and tattoos. 

The Outlaws MC is just one of a handful of large one-percent motorcycle clubs that dominate the global biker landscape. The Banditos, the Pagens, the Mongols and, of course, the Hells Angels (HAs)—the largest one-percent club in the world—round out these groups.  The Hells Angels are a club indigenous to California spun-off from the Pissed-off Bastards of Bloomington, an MC that was present during the Hollister fiasco.

In the past, Outlaws MC leaders from Wisconsin have maintained their prominence within their national organization due to the unwillingness of the Hells Angels to establish a presence in the badger state. The HAs have chapters in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan — forming a virtual ring around Wisconsin.

In 2003, two residents of Madison became patch holders of the Rockford chapter of the Hells Angels. Within the law enforcement community, word spread that the HAs planned to open a Wisconsin chapter.  The Outlaws quickly established a Madison chapter. Before long, troubles between the Outlaws and the Hells Angels drew-in members of a non-one percent motorcycle club, the Madison based Capitol City (CC) Riders. When a member of the Hells Angels attempted to crash a party the CC Riders’ enforcer stabbed him.  Soon, HA members from Las Vegas and Minnesota descended on Madison. The trouble ended about a year later when the federal government indicted Hells Angels’ member Christopher Wilson on firearms charges. In the interim, prosecutors convicted a Hells Angels’ member of beating a CC Rider at a Madison tavern in an apparent retaliation for the earlier stabbing.

For readers interested in learning more about the biker subculture, checkout the Cozen Protocol (see the link on the right side of this page). Author Mitchell Nevin’s depiction of the fictional leader of the one-percent motorcycle club Nero’s Igniters is very enlightening, even though it serves as a backdrop for the outstanding e-book’s overall plot (for the necessary software to read Amazon Kindle books on your PC, click the link on the right of this page entitled “Free e-books to PC Download”).

From the looks of the media coverage concerning the indictment of “Milwaukee Jack” and his Outlaws colleagues, it is clear that several reporters need to pick-up Nevin’s book and bone-up on the biker subculture as well as street gangs in general.

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler.

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010

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