A former Chosen Few motorcycle club member who turned informant against his associates was grilled Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court.
But David W. Ignasiak, 43, didn't have much to say in front of Chosen Few members in the packed courtroom.
The former Lancaster resident, who now lives outside the region for safety reasons, repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to discuss any matters that could implicate him in criminal activity.
He repeatedly refused to answer questions about an August 2008 assault in which attorneys for his former associates say he took part while acting as an FBI informant.
On several occasions, Ignasiak did say that the FBI had warned him not to participate in any criminal activity with the Chosen Few without first notifying federal agents.
The former biker was the first witness as U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy began a hearing on claims by defense lawyers that authorities had engaged in "outrageous government conduct" in their use of the informant.
A half-dozen FBI agents, federal marshals and court security officers observed the hearing, with an FBI bodyguard sitting a few feet from Ignasiak, who wore a casual sport coat, a white shirt, black tie and black slacks.
Prosecutors deny any government misconduct.
During some emotional opening remarks Wednesday, First Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy said the government fears that McCarthy has already "prejudged" the case. He noted that, since 1976, only one federal case in the United States has been dismissed because of "outrageous government conduct."
"This is a big deal to the FBI and our office. It's a big deal to the entire Department of Justice," Kennedy said.
McCarthy responded that he is following the law and emphasized that he is "not prejudging any aspect of this case."
Ignasiak provided information that helped the U.S. Attorney's Office file criminal charges in May 2009 against 20 members and associates of the Depew-based biker club.
When the Chosen Few case goes to trial -- possibly later this year or sometime next year -- Ignasiak is expected to be a key prosecution witness, and defense attorneys intend to attack his credibility.
At one point during Wednesday's hearing, Paul J. Cambria, a defense attorney, said prosecutors had given him a document stating that, on at least one occasion, Ignasiak had "lied" to the FBI.
But the document, so far, has not been made public, and prosecutors declined to comment on it when asked by The Buffalo News.
Defense attorneys claim that, while wearing a hidden recording device for the FBI in August 2008, Ignasiak took part in an attack on Eugene Siminski, a member of the rival Kingsmen motorcycle club.
Police said Siminski was beaten with an ax handle after several men pulled him off his motorcycle on a Buffalo street. Defense lawyers said government tape recordings show that Ignasiak was a leader and active participant in the attack.
Defense lawyers claim an FBI agent gave false information -- saying Ignasiak only observed the beating -- in a sworn affidavit that enabled prosecutors to bug the Chosen Few clubhouse in 2009. Defense lawyers are trying to have any recordings made in the clubhouse removed from the case.
The Chosen Few members and associates have been charged with racketeering crimes, including arson, beatings and death threats.