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An insider's account of life as a Kingsmen

For years, what went on inside the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club stayed inside the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club.

"You kept your mouth shut, whatever happens," said Chester Schultz, a longtime member.

But over the course of two days last week, Schultz sat in a downtown courtroom and revealed a lot about the biker club and the violent, male-dominated subculture that defined it.

Now 52, Schultz, a former chapter leader, spoke about the inner workings of the Kingsmen, its hierarchy, the role of women and, perhaps most important, the rules, written and unwritten.

He told a federal court jury about an intra-club feud, complete with a shotgun blast and baseball bat attack that left one member with a broken nose.

He also spoke about the Kingsmen code, the do's and don'ts of being a member, and the physical discipline that can result when people step out of line.

"You can be smacked, hit in the chest or fined," he said. "If you walked a fine line, nothing happened to you."

With three of his fellow club members on trial just a few feet away, Schultz provided a rare glimpse into the biker club and, under questioning by four different lawyers, acknowledged that drugs and guns have been part of the Kingsmen world for years.

He testified that, despite that legacy, former national president David Pirk wanted to ratchet up the illegal conduct and turn the family-friendly club into a full-fledged criminal enterprise, or so-called "one-percent club."

Prosecutors claim Pirk, eager to send a message to rivals within the club, ordered the murders of Kingsmen Paul Maue and Daniel "DJ" Szymanski in 2013 outside the North Tonawanda clubhouse. Pirk is on trial with former regional vice president Timothy Enix and Andre Jenkins, the Kingsmen currently serving life without parole for killing Maue and Szymanski.

Schultz, who was also a rival, spent nearly eight hours on the stand and provided the jury and U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford with a first-person account of what it was like to be a Kingsmen.

He told them about the chapter clubhouses, the center of activity, a place for members to gather to do business or simply party in the privacy of their own domain.

Located in places like Lockport, Springville and South Buffalo, the clubhouse amenities included a fully-stocked bar, gaming machines, untaxed cigarettes and the occasional stripper party, he said.

And, according to prosecutors, easy access to drugs and guns.

"This is a man's club," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi told the jury at one point. "The rules of society end at the clubhouse door."

In his opening statement, Tripi gave a history lesson of sorts about the Kingsmen, from its founding in Lockport in the late 1950s to its more recent expansion into Pennsylvania, Florida and Tennessee.

He talked about club members going to "church," the term used for monthly meetings, and the role of "ol' ladies," the wives and girlfriends who were barred from joining the all-male enclave but were nevertheless trusted.

David Pirk, former national president of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club. (Illustration from News file photos)

One former "ol' lady" would later testify that she wore a leather vest emblazoned with the name of her Kingsmen boyfriend and told the jury, "That means I was his property."

Even more important than the unwritten rules, Tripi told the jury, is the Kingsmen patch – the gold knight's helmet with red plume on top.

"I can't stress enough how important the patch was to them," he said. "That knight's head was more important than human life."

'Teach her a lesson'

One of the unwritten rules at Kingsmen clubhouses, according to testimony, is that only a Kingsmen can touch the door leading in and out.

It’s a rule a 19-year-old Springville woman learned the hard way.

In September of 2009, the woman, who testified in the case last week, was dating Kingsmen Gregory Willson and, during a trip to Pennsylvania, found herself at the clubhouse in Meadville. The Buffalo News is withholding the woman’s identity because of an alleged sexual assault.

After drinking, smoking marijuana and doing some cocaine, the woman asked to leave but Willson refused.

When she went to the door and kicked it, Willson snapped, she told the jury. He yanked her by the arm and pulled her into a side room as other Kingsmen looked on.

“Did they try to help you?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Marianne Shelvey.

“No, they just watched,” said the woman. “They said, ‘Teach her a lesson but don’t kill her.'”

Willson did as he was told.

“He climbed on top of me and just kept hitting my face,” the woman told the jury.

By the time Willson was done, her eyes were swollen shut and her mouth cut open and bleeding. While she spoke, Shelvey displayed photos of her injuries.

When Willson was finished and, after a few "ol’ ladies" cleaned her up, Willson put sunglasses on the victim to conceal her injuries, and took her to his mother’s house in Allegany.

For four days, he denied her medical attention and kept her against her will. In the grand jury indictment against Willson and 15 other Kingsmen, prosecutors also claim he gave the woman heroin to help with her pain, and that at one point she was sexually assaulted by several Kingsmen.

Willson, as part of a plea agreement, admitted beating the woman and keeping her against her will, but stopped well short of acknowledging he gave her heroin. He also denied the rape.

“Gregory accepted responsibility for his limited conduct but many of the more egregious allegations, he did not plead to,” defense lawyer Thomas J. Eoannou said last week.

On the day the woman, now 27, testified, she told the jury she had been clean for one month and had come straight from her latest methadone treatment.

She got hooked on heroin after that first experience with Willson, she said, and for a time was using every day. She also acknowledged going to back to Willson at one point.

“I believed he could change,” she said.

Willson, who pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge, is facing a recommended sentence of up to 19 years in prison.

Family feud – with shotgun, bat

During his two days on the witness stand, Schultz talked about his own brushes with violence, many of them with fellow Kingsmen.

He also took the jury through his life as a biker, from his time as a "hang around" – a term used to describe people associated with the Kingsmen – to his induction as a full-patched member and eventual ascension to president of the Lockport chapter.

He spoke matter-of-factly about the Nomads, the enforcement wing of the club, the Kingsmen often charged with using violence to retaliate against rivals.

"They take care of any problems with other clubs, civilians or your own members," Schultz told the jury.

He also spoke about the benefits of being a club member, including access to a private bar in any clubhouse you visit. And because the club lacks a liquor license, the beer and drinks are free – sort of.

"Nothing is for sale," Schultz said. "If you want a beer, you make a donation."

And for those who may be incarcerated and unable to enjoy the clubhouse, the Kingsmen provide another unique perk –  $50 a month to all club members in prison.

Despite the ongoing criminal prosecution, Schultz talked proudly of his ties to the older Kinsgmen leadership and how John "Skeeter" Spry, one of the founders of the club, often referred to him as "a son."

Not surprisingly, Schultz aligned himself with Spry and the others who openly challenged what they saw as a move to a one-percent club.

"I wasn't going to follow Pirk," he said. "I wouldn't do it. I would have quit right there."

The feud, Schultz said, resulted in a string of violent incidents, a kind of back and forth between the two factions, during the summer of 2013.

Schultz said it started with Pirk's decision to shut down the Kingsmen clubhouse in Springville, a chapter with close ties to Spry, and the subsequent confrontation that resulted in a Springvile-based Kingsmen being hit with a blunt object and bloodied.

A few months later, Schultz and the others returned to the Springville clubhouse for a cookout and, while there, sent a text with a photo of the group to a Kingsmen they suspected was a Pirk ally.

Later that day, several Kingsmen drove by the clubhouse and fired a shotgun into the crowd. No one was hurt.

A few weeks later, the Spry faction retaliated by showing up at the Lockport clubhouse and taking all of the cigarettes, liquor and guns inside. Schultz, who was carrying a baseball bat, also assaulted one of the club members there.

"You did some damage?" asked defense lawyer Barry N. Covert.

"I broke his nose," Schultz answered.

"You sent a message," Covert added.

"Yes," Schultz said.

All four of the Kingsmen who shut down Lockport were eventually convicted of misdemeanor charges.

Under questioning by defense lawyers, Schultz also disclosed a 1998 felony conviction for reckless endangerment. Defense lawyers say the case involved allegations of a pipe bomb plot and a targeted group of African-American victims.

At several points in his testimony, Schultz acknowledged his role as a government informant, a task he took on shortly after his arrest in connection with the Lockport incident. At the time, he was facing a possible 25-year prison sentence because of his prior felony conviction.

"Is it safe to say you were pretty scared?" asked defense lawyer James W. Grable Jr.

"Yes," Schultz acknowledged.

Defense lawyers also questioned him about his successful efforts in 2016 to reclaim guns the courts had previously taken from him because of his felony conviction.

Prosecutors confirmed that a federal agent working with Schultz called the state court judge handling his gun claim and told him of Schultz's cooperation with the government.

Schultz said he never asked the agent to put in a good word for him, and prosecutors said there is no indication the judge was influenced by the agent.

The trial resumes Monday.

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