tv This Is Life With Lisa Ling CNN October 9, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT
i'm in east los angeles surrounded by hundreds of men. law enforcement calls them a criminal organization. they are a notorious group with a violent history. >> we demand respect. we don't take [ bleep ] from nobody. >> an outlaw biker club that's at war with the federal government. >> they are trying to decimate all one percent motorcycle clubs. >> they are highly secretive. >> i would rather not say. >> no comment? okay. >> they never let the media inside their world until now. >> nice to meet you.
these are the mongols. they want the world to know who they really are. so they are granting me unprecedented access to their club. ♪ ♪ we're following breaking news out of waco, texas where there has been a shooting we're told between biker gangs. >> at least five motorcycle gangs gathered. at waco's twin peaks restaurant. >> nine people dead, more than 170 --
>> on may 17th, 2015, hundreds of bikers convened at a restaurant in waco, texas. it's unclear how it started but many bullets started. some by the police. when the smoke cleared, one member of the band and eight members of a rival club were dead. law enforcement immediately heightened surveillance on motorcycle clubs nationwide. particularly on those known as one percenters, an elite group of biker clubs that consider themselves the toughest around. the government classifies these clubs as criminal gangs. they include the banditos, the hell's angel, and a group the federal government has been after for years.
♪ the mongols. this east l.a. based club denies allegations that they are criminals and they want to set the record straight. one percenter clubs almost never give interviews but for the first time ever we're invited in. they are considered to be the biggest and baddest clubs out there but they want us to see what they are really about now. the first thing they invited us to is family fun day. from what i can see, family fun day is exactly what it sounds like. wives, kids, potato salad, amusements, and a few hundred hard-core bikers. >> that's a real biker right here. >> david is the mongol's national president. nearly everyone in the club is given a nickname and his is lil dave.
when you do normal events, you are normally not dressed in shorts and stuff like that, right? >> obviously we're usually on our bikes wearing jeans, boots and vests with patches on. >> why is it important to not show your colors on a day like this? >> we like to say so we won't attract law enforcement's attention, but as you see, law enforcement is still here. >> is this typical? >> at times it is, but right now in the wake of waco, texas, law enforcement is at a heightened level. but really as you can see, we're not threat. every time we go to an event, we police our own people and clean up after ourselves better than the normal citizen. they should be out there chasing real criminals. >> do you think you'll always be plagued by your past? >> there's always going to be that stigma hanging over our head. we're the mongols motorcycle club. >> the mongols came on the scene in 1969 when a group of latino vietnam vets were allegedly
denied access to the nation's most infamous bike club, the hell's angels. they refused to let anyone stand in their way. they joined the one percent of biker clubs that live outside the rules of american motorcycle oesh oesh association and proudly call themselves outlaws. today, the mongols have chapters all over the world and although they are under constant scrutiny from law enforcement, their membership continues to expand. how long have you been part of the club? >> i've been here for a while. i'm a prospect now. >> what does that mean? >> that means i'm fighting to earn my way in. >> and so what kinds of -- can i ask what kinds of things you do as a prospect? >> pick up trash, serve beer. >> did you do that as a prospect. >> yes, i did. you know, you don't just come in for free. >> out of curiosity, why the mongols?
sf. >> i was in iraq in '07, '08 and something i always wanted. >> are there similarities between a motorcycle club and the military? >> i can point out any brother here right now and they have got my back 100%. same thing as the military. >> i meet another young member who introduces himself as dead man. how did you get the name dead man, because that's probably not your birth name, right? >> no, not my birth name. i think i just would rather not say. i'll keep that one to myself but yeah, that is my name. >> got it. how did you even know about the mongols? >> some of them had took me in like father figure. i don't have a father, so that's what it came down to when they took me in. loved me, treated me how somebody should. when it came to joining, it was no issue. i already knew. >> as someone who grew up without a father, what does this brotherhood mean to you? >> i can count on somebody other than myself. you're here. you see us, what do you think about this? it's great, right? >> it's a great family barbecue.
>> this is what we do every sunday among our chapters. we know each other's kids and families. what else could you ask for? the police and everyone else, the stuff they are dishing out. that doesn't discourage anyone from anything. >> these men seem like family guys who just happen to be fond of harleys and tattoos, but i know there is more to the mongols than family fun day. in 2008, news broke that federal agents had infiltrated the mongols and arrested more than 75 members on charges ranging from racketeering to drug and weapons trafficking to murder. among the convicted was the club's national president at the time, ruben "doc" cavazos, who they alleged was the mastermind. he's since been ex-communicated from the club and lil dave stepped into his role. what i want to know is have they really cleaned up their act?
hi dave, how are you? >> i'm hot. >> good to see you. >> and if so, why does the fbi still classified the mongols as a violent gang? >> hey. >> here come more guys. for my first glimpse deeper into club life, i catch up with lil dave and a few of the guys at a local bike shop. how are you? i'm lisa. >> tommy gun. >> nice to meet you. >> pleasure. how often do you-all get together, your chapter? >> as much as possible. as much as possible. >> is there like an obligatory weekly meeting? >> every now and then, yeah. [ laughter ] >> getting these guys to answer my questions isn't easy. >> i mean, does the truth ever really come out? >> i notice a couple of them are talking about the shootout in waco.
out of curiosity, have you both been in places where things like that have happened, like fire fights or melees or anything like that? >> no. >> no comment? just wondering. i mean, can you -- what do you do in those situations? do you just -- no comment? okay. still, no luck. >> what's up? you're supposed to be a professional. >> but the next day i catch up with dead man and one of his brothers, soldier, who are more willing to open up. soldier, you're the one that introduced dead man to the club. >> yes, i did. i always said i wasn't going to bring nobody in the club but me and him got history together. >> but you always said you weren't going to bring anyone in? >> yeah. >> why is that? >> it's a big responsibility. you got to vouch for somebody that may not make a lifetime commitment. i take this as a lifetime, it's either death of prison. i'm not going nowhere.
>> that's serious, death or prison. >> that's how i live my life for this club. if i could die for my brother to live or go to prison for a brother that can't handle going to prison. i'll do it. i've already been there, done that. >> you have mentioned that you've been in prison. can i ask you what for? was it club related? >> no, it wasn't club related. i was cultivating a little bit of marijuana. >> must have been more than a little bit if you went to prison. >> just a little bit. nothing major. >> would you be able to have the same size marijuana operation now under dave? >> no, dave don't put up with that. right now criminal activity isn't even a part of club life. >> why do you think you're so often referred to as a gang? >> well, it's not always been kosher, you know. always some little bumps in the road here and there and right away they have to label us as a
gang. >> one similarity you might have with gangs is there are wars over territory, like for example, if some hell's angels came into this bar, what would happen? >> maybe nothing. maybe they might buy me a beer, you know, but i wouldn't take it. i would probably spit it back in there and give it to them and say here is your beer, thanks but no thanks. [ laughter ] >> which would probably start something. >> hey, might happen. but i don't -- they wouldn't come in here, though, i don't think they would. it wouldn't be for their best interest. >> there is clearly some hostility between the mongols and the hell's angels. i wanted to figure out what started it and how serious it is now. can a business have a mind?
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>> hundreds of members from all over the country will ride in a pact from los angeles to palm springs. then spend the weekend partying and taking care of club business. the national president lil dave is knee-deep in preparations. >> we got to run. just robbed the place. just kidding. [ laughter ] >> just a little biker humor. going to pick up some patches for the run and be patching some brothers that earned their right to become full fledged brothers in our club. >> at this national run, a few prospective members will receive a patch that signifies their full acceptance into the mongols. i asked dave for more details how the patches work. can you talk about the patches on the back of the vest? >> it's the mongols top rocker. the genghis khan that identifies the state from which the brother is from. >> and do you have to earn those? >> i mean, you earn them in
steps. it's a three-step process. >> a prospective member first earns the bottom rocker. then the center patch. and when he finally earns the top rocker, he becomes a full fledged member. >> so everything is in here that i needed? >> the significance of these patches runs deep. >> can you talk about what that meaning is for you? >> for me it's total commitment to this club. i would be willing to take a bullet for a brother and a brother who would be willing to take a bullet for me so you get into a jam, a brother is there to help you out. >> people have fought and died for -- >> right. >> for the patches. >> for sure, right. yeah, back in the day, i mean, we win a war with another organization for that purpose. >> dave is talking about the hell's angels. >> the mongols started wearing the california bottom rocker. >> that's correct. >> and the other club wasn't happy with that. >> right, because they felt they were here first. it was a big war. they were blowing each other up.
they would disrespect us or shoot us or try to blow [ bleep ] up at a funeral home when we're trying to bury our brothers. there was no respect or honor, but at the end of the day, we weren't going to let nobody push us or bully us around or run us out of town. we were here to stay and we weren't going to go nowhere. >> is it obligatory when you come across rivals from another club to battle it out? >> i wouldn't think so. maybe back in the days but not anymore. >> so you could kick it with the hell's angels. >> i wouldn't break bread or drink beer with somebody from that organization. i have enough brothers to do that with and at this point, our fight is against the government. >> the mongols are facing a landmark legal battle. federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the trademark on their patches, arguing they emblemize a violent criminal enterprise.
dave invites me to a hearing. i see he traded in leathers for a suit. >> good morning. >> good morning. >> i didn't even recognize you. >> i clean up well. at least i'd like to think so. >> is this your attorney here? hi, how are you? >> pleasure to meet you. >> how are you doing, buddy? >> good. >> so what could happen today? >> there's a lot at stake, i guess. a chance to maybe get this thing thrown out, put an end to the prosecution. there were roughly 80 men accused back in '08 and they have either served their debt to society or they are current lie doing it. what they are trying to do now is go after the other 700 that have nothing to do with what those men did. >> so this is potentially a big day. >> huge day for us. been under indictment for the last seven years now.
you would think enough is enough. >> ladies first. >> the judge doesn't allow our cameras inside, but i spend a few hours in the hearing. the case does not get dismissed. and i'm a little shocked by some of the things i hear. i mean, when i was sitting in that courtroom and the judge was reading off the different acts of the indictment. >> right. >> he mentioned murder. >> sure. >> and drug trafficking. >> right. >> and robbery and money laundering. >> right. >> you've been in the club for a long time. >> right. >> you had to know that some of that stuff was going on. >> the drug trafficking, i can't really speak on. those are individual acts. it's not as a whole, as a club, but as far as like the murders or the attempted murders, they were self-defense. what i tell my brothers is, as an american citizen, you have the right to defend yourself by any means possible, but just somebody saying something or getting in your face ain't enough to jump. if somebody gets shot or stabbed right from the gate, of course you're going to defend yourself.
you're not going to sit there and let yourself get murdered or killed. >> in court prosecutors referenced a deadly clash between the hell's angels and mongols that took place in 2002. surveillance cameras recorded the incident at a casino in nevada. >> they came to us. we didn't come to them. they drew the first blood. unfortunately, two of their guys died and one of our guys died on the floor of the casino. it was an unfortunate incident like many, you know? but that was a club act out of self-defense. we were minding our own business. >> the government also alleged that in addition to the main patches on the backs of their vests, mongols can earn patches for other things. i saw that there is a patch skull and cross bones. >> uh-huh. >> for taking out a target. is that true?
[ laughter ] >> i mean, here is the thing because it's online so you can, i mean, tell me as much -- >> public record. i haven't seen it online. that's news to me. >> i can pull it up right now. >> you know, in a self-defense situation, maybe a brother was awarded that, but i can't get into a whole lot regarding the patches. it's just -- >> it is in the indictment, and -- >> it is public record. it is in the indictment but on the patch situation, i just want to keep anonymity on that. >> okay. >> part of the reason why people i think are suspicious of motorcycle clubs is because there is so much secrecy involved. >> there is secrecy but it's not as sinister and evil as people would perceive it to be and that's why i opened my home and my club to talk to the media for
that reason. >> dave may not be willing to tell me everything, but he's already opened the door further for me than for anyone else. in fact, he agrees to deepen my access by allowing me to speak with a prospective member. i've heard that getting into the club can take months, even years of hard work, but the process has remained largely hidden from the outside world until now. there's a network that never stops improving. that's grown faster than any other, covering nearly every american... and these geese. but it's not who you think. squawk! it's t-mobile. our new extended range lte signal reaches twice as far... and is four times better in buildings. think you know our lte coverage? think again! see for yourself at t-mobile.com/coverage
today the mongols arranged for me to meet a prospect, someone whose trying to earn the club's coveted patch. hi, how are you? >> good. >> i'm lisa. what's your name? >> junior. >> is your dad here. hi, how are you? >> good, yourself? >> i'm well. >> mike is a former marine that hung around the club for years
before they invited him to be a prospect. so you're a prospect and have three kids? >> correct. >> now he's trying to prove his commitment to the club working full time as a carpenter and take care of his kids. >> mind if i check in? >> who? >> my sarge. >> what? so this is something that's obligatory. >> correct. >> what's up? >> checking in. >> all right. get with the others and see if you need to pick up their luggage tomorrow. >> 10-4. >> so you might have to go pick up luggage. >> whatever the patch holders need. >> are you on call 24/7? >> pretty much. it's just showing your dedication to the club. >> is it hard when your kids are here to have to leave? >> no, it's not because this is what i want and what i'll put first. i know that's what i got to do. that's my mentally. >> and how long have you been a prospect? >> 189 days, six months. >> how long could you be a prospect? >> as long as they want you to be.
>> when you got the call from leadership saying it was okay to talk to us -- >> correct. >> -- how did you feel about that? >> honestly, i didn't really want to do it. i'm a prospect, and i don't want to say anything wrong or to offend anybody from the club because this is everything to me. this is my family. i'll sacrifice anything right now to be a full patch member. >> where did that passion for the club come from? >> just how they treat me and embrace you. every one of them makes you feel loved. >> the run to palm springs. >> correct. >> i know they will be patching in some people. do you know if you'll be one of those men? >> no, i do not. i'll be patched in when they feel i'm ready. but i don't ask. >> if and when you're a full patched member, how do you think you'll feel to be wearing that mongol patch? >> on top of the world. on top of the world. ♪ >> seeing how much mike is willing to sacrifice to become a member is helping me understand
why full patched mongols are so dedicated. drew is president of the santa fe springs chapter and owner of no regrets tattoo shop. why is it important for members of biker clubs to have at the ties identifying them with their clubs? >> for me it's pride and love i have for my nation for the club. >> are you surprised law enforcement might call you a gang because you kind of look the part? >> yeah, i can see why even other bike clubs would call us gangster bikers. >> and what would you say the difference between you-all and a gang is? >> you have to be a breadwinner to be in this club. that's one of the first question that's asked. do you have a job? i have my business right here. his family owns a street sweeping and graffiti removal company.
you can't be a deadbeat and join the club. that's not going to happen. >> what's up, dave? >> hey, dave. just watching something that looks painful. >> so what exactly is that face you're tattooing? >> pretty much our center patch, depiction of genghis khan. >> can anybody whose a mongol get a mongol head tattooed on their body? >> you have to ask lil dave. >> i would have to cut it off you. >> cut it off me? >> what would you do seriously? >> remove it or cover it up, nicely. >> what if i refused. >> nicely. [ laughter ] >> that's as nice as it gets right there. >> can you talk about how you earn them? >> no. that's a touchy one right there. >> so can you at least tell me who okayed your tattoo, sweeper?
>> he's doing it. >> so what does it mean to be a one percenter? >> being a biker, the bad part of the biker world. we don't take [ bleep ] from anybody. if somebody comes and steps on our feet and don't apologize, then they will get [ bleep ]ed up. it's that simple. we demand respect. respect is a big thing in the whole biker world. ♪ >> the more time i spend with these guys, the more i'm seeing how significant this brotherhood is in each of their lives. there's something primal and triable about it. these guys are willing to die and kill for each other and there aren't that many other outlets that allow men to feel that kind of alpha way, and i get it. i'm not a man, but i get it.
it doesn't get more alpha than hundreds of men who call themselves brothers riding on the open road. and i'm going to experience it for myself. dave has invited me to join the mongols on their national run to palm springs. >> before you leave i want to give you something. you good with that? >> yeah. >> cool, come on. so i know you're going to go on a ride with us real soon here and just want to give you your first helmet, a jockey helmet, novelty helmet with the tags not used. nobody else has used this. >> thank you for that. >> this is your helmet. >> should i be nervous? >> not at all, you're with us. nothing to be nervous about at all. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. as soon as i pull out, i pass a mongol that's been pulled over on his bike by a cop the guys told me law enforcement has them under constant surveillance ready to bust them for the slightest infraction. if this is any indication of what it will be like on the run,
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shop is the place to be. indy is one of the many club members here to make adjustments to his vest. >> all right. put the east l.a. on the inside. >> okay. >> and take the bandanna out because my uniform i wore in iraq i want to have that sewn in there. >> dave is here to get annie's patch sewn on before she joins him on the run. >> just like this. this is going to be perfect. >> i have a lot of questions about the status of bikers' wives and girlfriends. not only do women wear patches declaring them property, i heard men are awarded wings for sexual acts. there are rules for women that come around the club. >> you have to act right as a
woman number one. it's not a disrespect, trust me. i know some of you are feminists. >> i'm being calm. >> it's a motorcycle's club, not our old lady's club. >> however they handle his involvement with the club, dave and annie are clearly doing something right. they have been married for 21 years and have five kids and three grandkids and co-own a lucrative bail bonds business. how different is your relationship with your wife outside of the club? >> when it's just me and her, i'm just david. i don't have to be lil dave, the president. and i'm good with that. >> i'm sure the lifestyle has probably broken up a lot of relationships. >> unfortunately, it has. i had a brother recently that broke up with his wife after 35 years and she basically gave him an option, it's the club or me. he chose the club. >> still, plenty of women choose to be with bikers, and i'm curious to get their perspective. if you think getting the mongols
to agree to be on camera is difficult, getting the wives of mongols has been harder but a small group of them have agreed to come and meet me at this restaurant including lil dave's wife. i don't know how forthcoming they will be but they are here. thanks for coming, ladies. >> thank you for having us. >> how are y'all doing? >> fantastic. >> are you y'all prepared for tomorrow, for the big run -- [ laughter ] >> it isn't our first rodeo. >> what is it like to be married to mongols? >> exciting. >> adventure. >> and then you have something to do almost every weekend. >> these women are all working professionals. and yet, none of them seem to mind being labeled as someone's property. so what is it like to wear things that say property of? >> i feel powerful in a sense. >> i love it.
>> it's just another symbol of respect for ourselves and for our men. >> but does it make you feel owned? >> owned? no. >> no. >> no. >> i'm proud of my property. it's like how do you feel when you put your wedding ring on? proud. >> but when it comes to the club, are you supposed to be submissive? >> submissive? that word -- >> it's like it sets us back like in the 1950s and it's like -- >> a dog is submissive, we respect our husbands and we respect the club. >> i think our role is a choice. >> as a wife, do you feel like the club comes before you? >> i really don't even know how to answer that. i believe that david would try to protect us all equally. >> i don't feel like my husband puts me on the back burner or that i'm less than. >> i've been in a position where i felt like the club did come first, and where are you going? don't ask me.
okay. but with time it evolved, and now it's like all right, get your bags ready, babe, we're going here. >> when you're at club functions, do you feel like you can speak openly and freely? >> you know, i'm with my man and i'm quiet and i never went up to other guys. a lot of it is common sense. you don't do it. it's disrespectful. >> you don't ask questions about their business. it's none of our business. >> i would be a terrible old lady, though. [ laughter ] >> why? >> because i just need to know everything. >> curiosity. >> yeah. >> so here is a question, were you ever concerned about your safety when you're part of the club? >> i feel the safest. my man is a hard ass, i love him for that. it's like a high school cliche, every girl wants a bad boy, you know.
>> i love it, too. i love it. >> they are kind of the ultimate bad boys. >> the next morning, those bad boys are gathering in a pack of hundreds for their national run. ♪ run. hundreds of mongols will ride as a pack to palm springs. media has never been allowed to do this and i am excited but a little nervous. so lil dave, who am i riding with? >> you'll be riding with my vp santos. >> santos. nice to meet you. >> before the ride begins, dave assembles the guys to say a few words. >> i want to thank all my brothers for coming out today. we got the other dummies, the other team on the road, too, this weekend. so keep a head on the swivel. >> i think dave is using coded language. the other dummies and the other team is the hell's angels. >> if somebody breaks down, i want five brothers with that
brother. don't leave them by themselves on the side of the road. this whole weekend it will be hot. >> that's not the only reason dave is asking these guys to be on they are best behavior. after the incident in waco, police everywhere are on high alert. >> be courteous, respectful and don't [ bleep ] up. i'm not going to tell you again. lisa ling, she's right here, pretty lisa ling, she's not trying to be nobody's girlfriend. be respectful and nice. that's that. >> police, hell's angels, hundreds of men looking for a girlfriend, sure, i can handle this. when you're not confident your company's data is secure, the possibility of a breach can quickly become the only thing you think about. that's where at&t can help.
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the president of the mongols, lil dave and his wife annie are at my side. i can't stop looking behind me to see this endless formation of bikes. every mongol i've talked to has said there is no feeling like this, and i get it now. i get the rush of being part of this massive group owning the open road. this is what it's all about. this is what these guys live for. i'm relieved that we haven't run into any rival motorcycle clubs. but police are everywhere. every once in awhile, they pull
someone over. it seems to be totally random, they check the guy's license and send him on his way. the police presence is definitely invasive, but in some ways, it's part of the thrill. ♪ >> we stop for gas and i have a chance to catch my breath. >> oh, my god, my heart is in my stomach. i was so nervous. i was still so tense. it seems like we own the freeways because i think cars are afraid to come up. this intense, i never experienced anything like this.
♪ after two hours on the road, we reach our destination -- palm springs, california. the mongols have booked an entire hotel for the weekend and we've been invited to join them. hundreds of outlaw bikers flood on to the property and i'm curious how the hotel staff is handling it. what are they like as customers? >> these folks have been perceived that they are violent, they are ruthless. that is not the case. from what we have experienced, they're so kind and absolutely the most well-behaved group that we ever get. >> are you trying to be a mongol? it's pretty quiet today.
and that's because all the full-patch members are at an obligatory meeting that we may not intend. while we have unprecedented access, we do not have total access. but when the meeting lets out, the party ramps up. ♪ >> one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. >> 90! >> there are many moments i forget that this club is under indictment by the federal government. >> are you behaving yourself? >> so far, yeah. >> who are you riding with anyway? >> santos. >> did you? >> i like your shirt. >> prospects are working
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everybody listen up. we're patching a brother right here. >> we're at the mongols' national run and this is the moment every prospect waits for. the moment he gets his final patch and becomes a mongol. >> back up, we have prospects getting their patch. >> it's a serious and sacred ritual that no one from the media has ever been allowed to document. >> what's your name, let's go? >> he's not nice hair. >> lil george. >> with us now for over six months. >> from new york. >> new york! >> donald trump! the prospect gets introduced properly, let's talk [ bleep ] to him. >> don't let this hit the
ground. that's gold. >> it's here i see mike, the prospect at his home a couple of days ago. he's finally getting patched in. >> he's a damn good prospect. [ bleep ]. i hate to patch him up. >> so describe the feeling right now. >> just overwhelming, excitement, joy. this is one big family. and the time you put in was all for your brothers. >> our time with the mongol is coming to a close and i feel like i'm just beginning to scratch the surface.
i can only draw conclusions from what i'm allowed to see. this brotherhood is like a fraternity, a unique kind of family for its members. there's no doubt they have each other's backs no matter what. and as for the rest? let's be clear, there are mongols who committed crime, there may be mongols who still committed crimes. and they may engage in some secretive rituals that could be perceived by the public as being unsavory, but that doesn't mean that as an organization, they are criminals. the only thing i wouldn't do is [ bleep ] with them, because then you're going to have problems. >> [ bleep ]. >> [ bleep ].
♪ the following is a i>> the following is a cnn special report. a brazen escape. >> there was a hole cut out of the back of the cell through which these inmates escaped. >> two convicted killers cutting their way to freedom, emerging from a manhole outside the prison walls. >> we estimate they climbed down and had power tools and were able to get out to this facility. >> two dangerous murderers now free. >> they kill anybody they feel like killing any time. >> how they get the tools, who helped them, and what was their plan. >> we are leaving no stone unturned. >> a scent in the woods,false sightings, all part of a