No jail sentence for Phil Aguilar, founder of Christian motorcycle club

The founding pastor of a Christian motorcycle club who was originally charged with street terrorism for his role in a 2008 brawl in Newport Beach with the Hells Angels has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and been sentenced to probation.

Philip Aguilar, 62, was sentenced Thursday and given credit for time he’d already spent in jail. He pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of a prohibited person owning ammunition.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop three felony weapons and street-terrorism charges.

The plea brought to a close a case that highlighted the controversial Christian ministry’s descent into what prosecutors alleged was a criminal enterprise.

The charges stemmed from a July 2008 bar fight on the waterfront in Newport Beach between the Set Free Soldiers and the Hells Angels, a brawl that ended with two stabbings and one man being pelted with a billiard ball.

In a predawn raid in August 2008, authorities seized dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition at four homes on Archer Street in Anaheim owned by Set Free.

Aguilar served prison time for child abuse in the 1970s, and as a convicted felon is prohibited from having a firearm and ammunition.

He converted to Christianity in prison and founded Set Free Worldwide Ministries in 1982.

Police and prosecutors contend that the group evolved into a criminal motorcycle gang in recent years, but Set Free describes itself as a Christian ministry that ministers to ex-convicts and recovering drug addicts.

Several members of the Anaheim-based group, including Aguilar’s son Matthew, have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the brawl and subsequent raids.

– Source / Full Story: No jail sentence for founder of Christian motorcycle club accused in Newport Beach brawl with Hells Angels, Tony Barboza, L.A. Now, Los Angeles Times Blog, May 18, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Ultimately, prosecutors filed attempted murder charges against only one of the Set Free Soldiers, Jose Enrique Quinones, 43, of Anaheim.

In December, Quinones pleaded guilty to that charge and a charge of street terrorism, plus a sentencing enhancement of causing great bodily injury, and was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

Four other Set Free Soldiers were charged with weapons and gang-related crimes.

Aguilar’s son, Matthew John Aguilar, 31, of Anaheim pleaded guilty to possession of a deadly weapon and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14, Emami said.

The elder Aguilar’s son in law, Michael Alan Timanus Jr., 31, faces charges of street terrorism and possession of a firearm by a felon. His case appears to be set for a preliminary hearing, Emami said.

In December 2008, Rodrigo Jose Requejo, 36, of Westminster, pleaded guilty to one felony count of aggravated assault for his role in the brawl. He was sentenced to three years of formal probation and 30 days in jail.

Meanwhile, Glenn Arthur Schoemen, 58, pleaded guilty in September to street terrorism and being an accessory after the fact, Emami said. Schoemen was sentenced to three years informal probation and 120 days in jail.

Two alleged associates of the Hells Angels motorcycle club also were charged in connection with the fight.

In early March, a judge tossed out drug and weapons charges against Brian David Heslington, 37, of Costa Mesa, citing concerns about a Newport Beach detective’s honesty.

The District Attorney’s office “was unable to proceed at the time” with the case but reserves the right to refile charges against Heslington, Emami said.

Another Hells Angels member to be charged in the incident, John Phillip Lloyd, 42, faces a jury trail on June 4 on charges of street terrorism and being a gang member carrying a loaded weapon, Emami said.

– Source / Full Story: Christian biker leader gets probation for role in bar brawl, Greg Hardesty, Orange County Register, May 18, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 20, 2010.
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