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Biker: Murders, extortion typified Outlaws

A former member of the notorious motorcycle gang testifies against the leader.

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001


TAMPA -- Christopher Maiale came to federal court Tuesday to testify against the legendary leader of the Outlaws motorcycle club, Harry "Taco" Bowman.

Maiale feared that what he was about to do could cost him his life. The club's motto flashed in his head, he told the jurors: "God forgives. Outlaws don't."

Maiale didn't mince words. Murder, beatings and extortion were a way of life in the club, he testified. "I've seen it all," Maiale said. "Soup to nuts."

Prosecutors say Harry Bowman has controlled the Outlaws motorcycle gang for 20 years, ordering killings, dealing drugs, participating in beatings, intimidating witnesses. Now, they hope to put a permanent end to Bowman's reign by convicting him of racketeering and nine other federal charges.

Maiale is one of the key prosecution witnesses in the trial, which began last month.

Maiale, 40, looked like the Hollywood cliche of a biker, wearing a goatee that hangs to his chest and long hair that he pulls back off his forehead. Maiale said he had found the Lord and his conscience forced him to testify against Bowman, his former leader and buddy. Maiale wasn't getting a break on his own five-year prison sentence.

Maiale testified that he spent a lot of time with Bowman when the leader visited Florida, the Outlaws' home turf. Maiale said he held guns for Bowman in case of any trouble. If Bowman was arrested, it was Maiale's job to go with him, he said, even if it meant punching a police officer in the face to secure his own arrest.

Bowman distributed cocaine, Valium and marijuana to other club members, Maiale said. Bowman also took a lot of drugs himself.

"The man would stay awake for days at a time," Maiale said.

Bowman often gave Maiale and others the green light to "put the boots" to delinquent members. The jurors saw a videotape of Maiale and several other Outlaws beating a man who had an improper tattoo. When they were done, one of the members gave the man a business card from a shop where he could get the tattoo removed.

Maiale relayed stories about murders and bombings the club had carried out against rival gangs. He also testified that he saw Bowman try to hack off a man's ear. The knife, however, was too dull to finish the job.

One particularly chilling detail came out when Bowman's attorney, Henry Gonzalez, tried to impugn Maiale by bringing up his past crimes. Gonzalez asked why Maiale got his nickname "Slasher" after a bar fight in which he was on the bottom of a pile of men.

"I cut my way out," Maiale said.

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