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Court upholds Outlaw convictions

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the 1989 convictions of six members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club on drug and racketeering charges.

In a 37-page opinion, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta confirmed the convictions of James Thomas Nolan, James Walter Starrett, Donald Joe Sears, Frederick Joseph Hegney, Michael Lee Cave and Timothy Kevin Duke. All remain jailed.

The federal appeals court ruled there was enough evidence to sustain the racketeering convictions in district court and upheld a lower court's denial of a defense request for a new trial.

The defense had argued many points on appeal, including that the jury instructions were inappropriate, the district court should have severed the trials and a new trial should have been granted based on new evidence.

After a 14-month jury trial in Fort Lauderdale, Nolan received two consecutive 25-year jail terms, Hegney was sentenced to 40 years, Cave and Sears received two consecutive 20-year terms, Duke received 20 years and Starrett 13 years.

With nicknames like Moldy Mike, Gangrene, Blue and Big Jim, the defendants made the trial a colorful spectacle. The jury found a pattern of crime within the notorious Outlaw gang, including murder, extortion, drug trafficking and a practice of forcing gang members' girlfriends, or "old ladies," to live as prostitutes to support the club.

In Tampa, 16 members and associates of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club are on trial in federal court on charges of racketeering and drug and gun violations.

If convicted, the defendants face up to life in prison. The government also seeks forfeiture of three Outlaws clubhouses.