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Tales of beatings, shootings and murder resurrected as Kingsmen trial nears an end

By now, after three months of testimony and 60 witnesses, many of them longtime bikers, the stories of beatings, shootings and murder are well known to the jurors deciding the fate of three Kingsmen Motorcycle Club members.

One by one, those same stories, including the one at the center of the trial – the murders of Kingsmen Paul Maue and Daniel "DJ" Szymanski – were resurrected this week by prosecutors and defense lawyers eager to influence the jury one last time.

During closing statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Tripi took jurors through evidence he believes proves fellow Kingsmen Andre Jenkins killed Maue and Szymanski at the direction of then-national president David Pirk.

A graphic photo of the crime scene, showing the two bikers dead in the front seat of a car at the North Tonawanda clubhouse, served as a backdrop for Tripi's summation.

"These murders were an inside job," he told the jury. "These murders sent a message – get in line."

For the defense, the summations provided an opportunity to again attack the quality of the government's case and suggest it relies too heavily on Kingsmen all too willing to lie on the witness stand.

Collectively, they challenged the core allegation against their clients, the claim that Pirk ordered the murders of Maue and Szymanski as a message to rivals within the club, and then directed Jenkins to carry it out.

"We don't have the type of evidence that you can grab onto like an anchor," said defense attorney William T.Easton.

Throughout the trial, Tripi and fellow prosecutors Brendan T. Cullinane and Marianne Shelvey relied on witnesses and phone records in an effort to prove Pirk conspired with Jenkins and former regional president Timothy Enix to plan and carry out the September 2014 murders.

Tripi, in his summation, referred to Jenkins as Pirk's puppet, a fellow Kingsmen eager to do his bidding in an effort to rise through the Kingsmen ranks.

"He didn't need to be there," Tripi said of Pirk's absence from the murder scene. "Pirk's weapon that day? Defendant Jenkins."

From the start of the trial in January, prosecutors portrayed the Kingsmen as a "one-percent" club, an organization similar to the Outlaws or Pagans in its willingness to engage in violence or other criminal activity.

They told the jury that the murders of Maue and Szymanski were simply an extension of that culture of criminality. Jenkins is already serving life without parole because of a separate state court conviction tied to the double murder.

"They killed people," Tripi said at one point. "They sold drugs. They hurt people. That's what a one-percent club does."

Over the course of three months, the government called witnesses who testified that Jenkins was seen leaving the North Tonawanda clubhouse on a Harley just moments after the killings and was later seen with blood on his pants.

Others took the stand to recall admissions they claim Pirk and Jenkins made before and after the killings, and how the murder weapon, a 9 mm gun allegedly discarded by Jenkins as he fled south to Olean, was found during a massive police search along Route 219.

"The government's case is based on lies told by liars," said defense lawyer Barry N. Covert.

Daniel “DJ” Szymanski, left, and Paul Maue were slain outside the Kingsmen clubhouse.

To make his point, Covert, who is working with lawyer Michael S. Deal, referred frequently to Filip Caruso, a former Kingsmen who testified for several days and will go on trial later this year.

"He said it twice, 'sometimes you have to lie,' " Covert said of Caruso, a six-time felon. "He has no motivation to be truthful. He's trying to save himself."

Over and over, the defense challenged the government's claims of a conspiracy and suggested at one point that the "wafer-thin" theory relied too heavily on the testimony of bikers eager to curry favor with prosecutors.

"They have no qualms about taking an oath to tell the truth and then lying," said Easton, who with lawyer Cheryl Meyers Buth, represents Pirk. "And just as they did before, they are doing it again."

Unlike Pirk and Jenkins, co-defendant Enix offered a far different defense, suggesting he was unaware of any murder plot. He also testified that his opinion about Jenkins' innocence changed at some point.

To hear defense lawyer Terrence M. Connors talk, only six of the 60 witnesses who testified during the trial mentioned Enix by name, which is why he didn't ask a question during the entire first month of the trial.

"It's the longest I've sat in a courtroom without asking a question," Connors, who is working with lawyer James W. Grable Jr., told the jury.

Tripi reminded the jury that not all of the witnesses were Kingsmen looking for leniency, and pointed to a young woman who was with Jenkins the night of the murders and claims she saw him throw away the murder weapon as they were riding south along Route 219.

She also claims Jenkins had blood on his pants that night and later asked a fellow Kingsmen in Olean to burn the clothes.

"What on earth did she have to gain by going through what she went through?" Tripi said.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford resumes Wednesday.

An insider's account of life as a Kingsmen

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