Reputed outlaw biker gang leader released on bail

Posted: July 15, 2011

The reputed national vicepresident of a West Philadelphia-based motorcycle club, federal prosecutors say is an outlaw motorcycle gang, was released on bail this afternoon by a federal magistrate judge.

U.S. District Magistrate Linda Caracappa ordered Wheels of Soul officer James Smith, 64, be released on $100,000 bond with electronic monitoring and be on weekend curfew from 7 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Smith will be permitted to continue working as an equipment repairman.

Caracappa said Smith's lack of criminal history, ties to the community and work history all augured for release on bail.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Joseph Labar had opposed bail on grounds that while Smith "didn't personally have a criminal history the boss never gets his hands dirty."

In a racketeering indictment unsealed Tuesday in St. Louis, federal prosecutors described the Wheels of Soul as a national outlaw gang of heavily armed murderous thugs who take their marching orders from the "mother chapter" in Philadelphia.

Smith is not charged with any violent acts, but authorities allege he instructed members in other chapters how to respect club leaders, stand up to rival motorcycle gangs, and avoid detection by law enforcement by speaking in code.

Defense attorney Wm J. Brennan said Smith, a repairman for Eagle Equipment Corp., is a "stand up guy . . . this is not a guy who should be detained."

Smith's boss, Scott Avazian, testified that Smith has worked for Eagle for almost four years, often 40 to 60 hours a week.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656, or or @mhinkelman on Twitter.

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