In the suntimes today
Motorcycle club closely watches as chief's murder trial opens
August 19, 2003
BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter Advertisement
Their motto is "God Forgives, Outlaws Don't."
The Outlaws, a motorcycle club founded here, have never forgiven the Hells Angels for gunning down one of their members in 1994 at a New York speedway.
Even worse, they say, no one was convicted of the killing--yet several Outlaws have been charged in the killing of Michael Quale, a Hells Angel, on that day.
Chicago area Outlaws are closely watching a trial that began Monday in Tampa, Fla., to see if international club leader James Lee "Frank" Wheeler will be held responsible for Quale's killing.
"All the members in Chicago are supportive of him," a Chicago Outlaws member said of Wheeler.
Outlaws and others have been buying $20 "Free Frank Wheeler" T-shirts, which are hawked on a club Web site, to raise money for the 60-year-old biker's defense.
Wheeler, a bearded bear of a man who writes poetry and lives in Indianapolis, is facing racketeering and murder charges for the killing at Lancaster Speedway near Buffalo, N.Y.--and for another one in Indiana. In 2001, two Chicago area Outlaws and a Wisconsin member also were charged in Quale's death.
No one was convicted for killing Outlaws member Walter Posnjak at the speedway. A Hells Angel was accused of the crime but acquitted by a jury in 1996.
The Chicago Outlaws were founded in 1950 and have long been fierce rivals of the Hells Angels.
"They say there's a truce, but I don't think so," said former Chicago police gang investigator Joe Sparks. "The Outlaws said there will never be any Hells Angels in Chicago."
The Outlaws' two Chicago clubhouses look like military bunkers.
At 25th and Rockwell, the club's skull-and-crossed-pistons logo, called "Charlie," is painted on a rooftop sign. A heavy metal plate protects the door from bullets. A camera is trained on the sidewalk.
At the clubhouse in the 3700 block of West Division, there's a message for visiting cops at the front entryway: "To all law enforcement agencies. Please do not kick or smash in our doors. If you have a warrant, just call."
The Outlaws, which have 17 chapters across the world, resemble a multinational corporation engaged in drug dealing and loan sharking, federal prosecutors say.
In 1994, the Outlaws were tied to bombing the clubhouse of the Henchmen, Hells Angels' allies, in the 1700 block of West Grand. A car bomb blasted the steel door off and damaged cars and windows.
Sparks, who investigated that bombing, said clubs like the Hells Angels and Outlaws don't have visible drug operations like street gangs and tend to be more secretive about their criminal dealings.
"They say they're doing charity, but they do hits for the mob," he said, adding the club is known for dealing methamphetamine.
But the Outlaws spokesman insisted members raise money for charity. And, he said, federal prosecutions have discouraged members from engaging in the kind of criminality that is haunting the club in the courts today.
"We've changed with the times," said the man, who requested anonymity. "The main attraction, and reason our club is growing, is biking and brotherhood. We're about riding our motorcycles."