Case Against Alleged Outlaw Deputy Hinges As Much On What is Not Told As What Is

By Mark Gutglueck
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department by arresting one of its own deputies on somewhat nebulous charges relating to his ties with what has been termed “an outlaw motorcycle gang” appears to have opened a can of worms that now cannot be untangled short of the involvement of federal investigators and prosecutors, if at all.
At issue is whether the guilt by association implied with some of the department’s actions and statements together with that of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office can pass constitutional muster, taken together with a test of the accuracy of the assumptions the department and prosecutors have made with regard to the case’s underlying facts, a circumstance complicated further still by whatever investigative role the deputy was serving in which may not have been known by all or even most of his colleagues within the department.
Even assuming the deputy was, as is alleged, a criminal who had insinuated himself into the county’s primary law enforcement agency and was in possession of illegal weaponry he was not allowed to possess in his off-duty capacity, questions attend the admissibility of the materials seized in the effort to adduce his guilt thus far, given the dubious grounds cited in obtaining the warrant used in conducting the search of his premises that yielded that evidence.
In analyzing the case against Deputy Christopher Bingham, the most important determination may not turn on whether what the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office is at this point disclosing about him is true, which it might very well be, but rather what information about him is not being provided or deliberately withheld.
Bingham is a former Marine, one who enlisted in August 1998 and was inducted in September of that year at the age of 19 and one day shy of four years later in September 2002 was honorably discharged, having achieved the rank of corporal and received numerous commendations to include the Navy’s Distinguished Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. His final tour of duty was with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
At the age of 23, he was looking for gainful employment. As rifleman in Marine Corps, he had extensive experience with firearms. After spinning his wheels, for a time, he looked into the posssibility of a career in law enforcement.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which actively recruits from among recently discharged military personnel, had advertised that it was seeking to fill deputy positions with qualified candidates, which led him to apply for and obtain almost immediate admission to the basic sheriff’s academy at the Frank Bland Training Center in Devore run by the sheriff’s department. He excelled at most of the courses and training, particularly those relating to the physical training program, firearms and defensive tactics.
Shortly after graduation as a member of the 142nd Class of the Frank Bland Basic Police Academy in 2005, having already been screened to be admitted to the academy, he passed a more intensive background investigation and was hired as a deputy by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in September of that year. By going to work with the sheriff’s department rather than any of a number of other law enforcement agencies, including the Azusa, Barstow, Chino, Claremont, Corona, Fontana, La Verne, Montclair, Pomona, Rialto, Riverside and San Bernardino police departments which routinely hired Frank Bland Basic Academy graduates, Bingham figured he would be able, after working at other locations throughout far-flung 20,105-square-mile San Bernardino County, to eventually obtain a duty assignment close to his home in Twentynine Palms.
After his acclimation to the department, Bingham, as a firearms expert, former Marine stationed locally and someone who had grown intimately familiar with the Highway 62 communities of Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and the Morongo Valley and many of the rugged individualist types who are attracted to that sparsely populated sub-region, to say nothing of his own demeanor as an individual up for physical challenges, including functioning as a motorcycle patrolmen on the open desert highway, became a valuable department asset. He was able to meld into the milieu of desert life and, on occasion, pick up information that was of some value to the department and its mission of enforcing the law, keeping the peace, exploring behaviors among the area’s residents, visitors and serviceman that represented the near occasion of violence or criminality.
In 2015, just around the time of his son’s first birthday, Bingham registered a limited liability company in which he was the sole owner with California Secretary of State, O’Three Tactical, located at 73749 29 Palms Highway in Twentynine Palms. At that point, his effectiveness as a receptor of information being casually and passively collected mushroomed by a factor of more than one hundred. O’Three Tactical was a gun shop, one that dealt in standard firearm sales as well as obtaining for its customers specialized equipment and hardware prized by gun aficionados, particularly ones looking to replicate the actuality or mystique of military firepower. Contained within a shop next to a Mexican restaurant east of Adobe Road in the downtown section of Twentynine Palms on Highway 62, known in that neck of the woods as 29 Palms Highway, O’Three Tactical had found a niche in a place where both current and former military personnel lived and congregated. While he was sometimes engaged during normal business hours working daytime shifts with the sheriff’s department, for certain periods, Bingham worked swing or graveyard patrol or duty within the sheriff’s jail system, freeing him to be present at O’Three Tactical, which was normally manned by one of four different employees, all of whom were current or former military personnel or law enforcment officers, he had over the years O’Three Tactical remained in operation. Because of his own affinity for guns and weaponry, his shop became one known for the ability to track down and deliver specialized firearms, as well as for providing servicing and augmenting equipment to those products, along with, as the shop’s name implied, all order of tactical gear. Knives, bulletproof wear and helmets, ammunition, magazines, cartridges, powders, primers, sights and scopes and all order of other accessories. O’Three Tactical did deal, legally insofar as the sheriff’s department certified, in some weaponry and equipment that was banned or outlawed in California, such as certain types of firearms and silencers, devices that in some other states can be purchased or possessed legally.
Bingham maintained, however, and the sheriff’s department’s standoffishness seemed to confirm, that such items were being sold, as Bingham stated more than once, to “individual California law enforcement officers properly licensed and permitted to carry them or out of state buyers.” His shop also engaged in gunsmithing, making firearms to order, and legal firearm adaptations.
Bingham decried the “liberal” California legislature and state government which was, in his view, infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens by engaging in excessive regulation of firearms and gun ownership. Calfifornia citizens should be free to own and practice with firearms, as long as the firearms themselves fell within the rubric of the type of weapons that could be owned and used, and their owners properly registered and responsibly stored and used them.
His second job as a gun shop owner brought him into contact with a subset of the not just the Morongo Basin’s population, but many people from outside the area who traveled hundreds of miles and occasionally from outside of California to look at, examine and buy the oftentimes exotic models of firearms he had obtained.
Bingham fastidiously adhered to the law with regard to regulations about whom guns can be sold to. One report held that he had a policy of asking anyone who came into O’Three Tactical smelling of marijuana to leave. At one point, in 2019, the sheriff’s department’s internal affairs division, referred to as professional standards, initiated an investigation into Bingham when it was alleged that he was improperly using the CLETS – California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System – the data base available to California law enforcement agencies that, among other things, catalogs the arrest histories and criminal convictions of the state’s residents. That investigation came to nothing, however, when it was determined that Bingham was merely delving into whether he could make gun sales to certain individuals seeking to purchase firearms whom he had legitimate grounds to believe might actually be felons who could not legally purchase, own or possess firearms as a consequence of their convictions. The department ended that investigation without taking any action against him.
There is information to suggest that on a multitude of occasions, Bingham’s status as a gun shop owner resulted in the production of information useful in the sheriff’s department’s operations, as he became privy to potential or actual criminal activity through his or his employees’ interaction with customers or would-be customers, which was passed along to his colleagues within the sheriff’s department.
On at least one occasion, Bingham himself became involved as a witness in a prosecution in which he had knowledge about activity/a circumstance relevant to a crime. In 2019, Lance Corporal Rafael Aikens, who had been stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, went on trial for the March 23, 2017 murders of Christy McKissic and her mother, Renee Metcalf, who were shot in their Twentynine Palms home. Aikens hand been in a dating relationship with McKissic, whom he had met at the Virginian bar in downtown Twentynine Palms, where she worked with her mother. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office put on a largely circumstantial case against Aikens,  a machine gunner attached to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines at the time of killings. The case against him was strengthened by his alleged confiding in two of the Marines housed within his living quarters at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms and by the testimony of Bingham. Bingham told the jury that O’Three Tactical sold a 45-caliber handgun to Aikens a month before the killings.
O’Three Tactical was popular with customers and did what was a relatively brisk business, at least for a time, providing Bingham’s employees with a steady income. Nevertheless, Bingham was not a particularly astute businessman, as he saw O’Three Tactical as a more of a vehicle by which he could support the Second Amendment and engage in the milieu of gun ownership and paramilitary pride rather than make a lot of money. Because his profit margins were not that high and the cost he sometimes went to to obtain rare firearms requested by his patrons, O’Three Tactical was, somewhat surprisingly, hurt by the increase in demand for both firearms and ammunition that accompanied the rioting nationwide that followed in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis Police. O’Three Tactical, which might have otherwise enjoyed a windfall as a result of the increase in sales, at first kept up with that demand by scrambling to find ammo and guns from creatively derived sources, as supplies of both dwindled because of the stepped-up demand. But Bingham’s commitments to make guns and ammunition available to those who wanted them at prices that existed prior to the panic fueled by the riots not only ate into his profit margin but created a circumstance in which he was functioning at a loss.
“After being unable to maintain any kind of inventory and hemmor[h]aging my own personal finances over the last year trying to keep our doors open, O’Three Tactical will be permanently closing its doors on Wednesday, June 23rd,” Bingham posted to O’Three Tactical’s Facebook page on June 5, 2021.
At that point, Bingham maintained with regard to O’Three Tactical’s inventory, “Anything remaining will be sent back to manufacturers or wholesalers. After refunds are issued, anyone owed balances or refunds will be contacted within 90 days of closing for payments.
Unfortunately there will be no closing sales as remaining inventory will be sold off to pay some of our debts we have accrued trying to stay open.”
Concurrent with his operation of O’Three Tactical and his functioning as a sheriff’s deputy, it was known that Bingham was both an off-road enthusiast, and that he used both dune buggies and dirt bikes in pursuing that passion. Moreover, it was recognized by at least some of his department colleagues, that Bingham’s motorcycling had brought him into contact with other bikers.
Both the Hells Angels and the Devils Diciples, what are referred to as “outlaw motorcycle clubs” originated in San Bernardino County, that is Fontana, in 1948 and 1967, respectively.
Beginning in 1977, the Hells Angels became involved in a longrunning feud with the Mongols, another outlaw motorcyle club founded in Montebello in 1969. By 1988, the Hells Angels ceded control of much of Southern California, including protions of San Bernardino County, to the Mongols, based on an arrangement by which they agreed to discontinue the overt hostilities between them and the Monglos would respect the Hells Angels primacy in Northern California. The Hells Angels, while remaining preeminent in Fontana and San Bernardino, have little or no presence in the eastern Mojave Desert, such as in the Morongo Basin generally or in Twentynine Palms. Thus, Bingham’s interaction with bikers in the area in which he lives has pretty much been confined to those who associate with the Mongols.
Given that several of his fellow deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and at least a handful of the detectives and sergeants he worked with knew of his casual relationship with other motorcyclists, including most definitely some members of the Mongols, it is impossible for those knowledgeable about San Bernardino County in general, the greater Twentynine Palms area in particular, the fashion in which law enforcement agencies operate and specifics with regard to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s operations to believe that Bingham and members of the Mongols having existed in the same orbit was unknown up the chain of command in the sheriff’s department for some time.
Nevertheless, the department has put out that what it now has come to see as Bingham’s “unacceptable” relationship with the Mongols, or at least some of its members, was something realized only within the last three or four months.
At 06:40 p.m. on Thursday April 4, the sheriff’s department’s public affairs division put out a release slugged, “Extensive Investigation Leads to the Arrest of a Deputy Sheriff in Twentynine Palms.”
According to that release, the incident extended to Bingham’s “possession of a machine gun, possession of silencers, possession of destructive device[s], possession of [a] stolen firearm” and his being an “active participant in a criminal street gang.”
According to the department, “In January 2024, the Gangs/Narcotics Division began an investigation into Deputy Christopher Bingham and his association with a local outlaw motorcycle gang. During the investigation it was learned Bingham rode and socialized with several members from the outlaw motorcycle gang.”
Further, according to the press release, “On Saturday, March 23, 2024, Bingham was observed riding his motorcycle with two outlaw motorcycle gang members. With the assistance of the California Highway Patrol, a traffic stop was conducted on Bingham and the two outlaw motorcycle gang members. During a search of Bingham’s person, a loaded, unregistered firearm was located. Bingham was arrested and booked at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.”
The release goes on to state, “Investigators from the gangs/narcotics division conducted a search warrant on Bingham’s residence. Investigators located approximately 160 firearms. One of the firearms was a fully automatic assault rifle, with an attached grenade launcher. Investigators also located, destructive devices, silencers, outlaw motorcycle gang paraphernalia, and a stolen San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department shotgun.
“On Thursday, April 4, 2024, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed several felony charges against Bingham and issued an arrest warrant,” according to the release. “The charges are Penal Code 32625 – Possession of a Machine Gun, Penal Code 33210 – Possession of a Short-Barreled Rifle, Penal Code 487(D)(2) – Grand Theft of a Firearm, Penal Code 496(A) – Possession of a Stolen Firearm, Penal Code 18710 – Possession of a Destructive Device, PC 33410 – Possession of Silencers, and PC 186.22(B)(1)(A) – Participation in a Criminal Street Gang.”

At approximately 1:00 p.m. on April 4, investigators from the Specialized Enforcement Division and the Gangs/Narcotics Division arrested Bingham at his home at 7225 Adobe Road in Twentynine Plams. He was booked at the West Valley Detention Center in lieu of $500,000 bail. He remains there, being held in lieu of whast has been reduced to $240,000 bail.”

Sheriff Shannon Dicus was quoted in the April 4 press release stating, “The actions of this deputy are alarming and inexcusable; he not only tarnishes his badge but also undermines the integrity and credibility of the entire department. Criminal behavior will not be tolerated, and we have placed him on compulsory leave effective immediately. The investigation has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, and charges have been filed.”
Certain anomalies attend the case.
Much of what occurred with regard to Bingham is shrouded in mystery. A difficulty with the sheriff’s department’s operation with regard to him is a conflict that might already exist relating to the precedence that federal law has over state law when it comes to firearms, one which might cut Bingham’s way. Another is recent federal experience with the Mongols, in which the federal government has a burning grudge aginst the gang and its members, making Bingham an individual of interest to federal prosecutors, who may see him as a more inviting target than does the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Complicating that, however, is the suggestion that Bingham is not, as the sheriff and district attorney’s office are implying, a member of the Mongols. Just off stage is a nightmare scenario, one not confirmed but hinted at by circumstance, suggesting Bingham is some order of undercover operative, perhaps for one federal agency or other, and the sheriff’s department by its action has stepped all over that investigation.
Of significant relevance is whether Bingham’s federal firearms license is yet operative. A federal firearms license allows the entity, an individual or a company, to whom or which it is issued to engage in business or trransactions relating to firearms. Licenses vary, ranging from ones which pertain to manufacturing, importation, or interstate and intrastate sale of firearms, ammunition, or destructive devices. Such licenses are issued and controlled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the auspices of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Such licensees must be 21 years or older, not be prohibited from handling or possessing firearms or ammunition as the consequence of any state or federal criminal convictions, cannot have violated any provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, have disclosed all required information in connection with his application and have premises for conducting business or collecting firearms. Such licenses are specific as to what they permit, including manufacturing of firearms, manufacturing of destructive devices, manufacturing of non-destructive devices, manufacturing of ammunition, dealing in firearms, dealing in destructive devices, importing firearms, importing destructive devices, pawnbroking in firearms and collecting of curios and relics. Firearms considered curios, relics or antiques, which include primarily manually operated and semi-automatic firearms that have not been changed out of their original configurations which were used by a military force prior to 1974 can be subject to the National Firearms Act of 1934, a slightly different set of rules. For the most part, Bingham and his customers seemed to be interested in modern, or relatively modern, state-of-the-art weaponry.
One of the requirements of obtaining a federal firearms license is providing certification that the firearm-related business is conducted meeting the requirements of State and local law and that the applicant has sent or delivered a form to the chief law enforcement officer where the premises are located notifying the officer that the applicant intends to apply for a license. In this way, Bingham, as the sole owner of O’Three Tactical, had to have informed the sheriff’s department, which is the contract law enforcement provider to the City of Twentynine Palms, that he was dealing in firearms.
Further requirements for obtaining a license relate to having secure gun storage and safety devices and maintaining a registry of firearms sales in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-approved Bound Book, or a computerized equivalent using Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-approved software. Licensed dealers must also maintain file copies of Form 4473 or eForm 4473 “firearms transaction record” documents for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition.”
As O’Three Tactical went out of business on June 23, 2021, it is possible, though not likely, that the license Bingham had then is yet valid. Despite his statement at the time any of O’Three Tactical’s remaining inventory was to be sent back to manufacturers or wholesalers, it is not known, precisely, if that in fact occurred. What is known is that at least some of the O’Three Tactical merchandise was transferred to Bingham’s 7225 Adobe Road home, which had standard locking doors and windows.
According to the department, Bingham, who was off duty on March 23, a Saturday, was under surveillance by a detective, who observed him riding a Harley-Davidson along with two known Mongols gang members near Onaga Trail and Elk Trail in Yucca Valley.
While Bingham was not flying immediately apparent gang colors, his fellow riders were attired in black leather vests, one of which had two Mongols gang patches and the other with at least a single Mongols gang patch. It is not clear whether the motorcyclists became aware that they were being followed. The detective, however, was able to observe them and follow at a distance as they headed first west and then south on Highway 62 to the 10 Freeway, which they entered westbound.
The detective made agency-to-agency contact with the California Highway Patrol, which had a patrol unit make a visual apprehension of the bikers further west. When the Highway Patrol officer clocked the motorcycles moving in excess of the speed limit, he pulled them over for speeding just as they were coming to Highland Springs Road in Beaumont.
To the highway patrolman’s inquiry as to whether they were armed, Bingham and one of the other riders acknowledges they had knives. Bingham, who at some point told the highway patrolman that he was “law enforcement” was searched, at which point he was discovered to also be carrying a Glock 9 millimeter handgun. Bingham and at least one of the other riders were arrested and taken to the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. While there, he was searched more thoroughly, at which point it was noted that he was wearing a T-shirt beneath his jacket emblazoned “Fuck the 81!” and “SYLM. ”The number “81” is a gang code for the Hells Angels, the Mongols’ rivals. The acronym “SYLM,” translates to “Support Your Local Mongols.” On a chain around his neck was a ring with a black letter M signet, which was interpreted to refer to the Mongols.
Bingham’s arrest had been effected and he was booked on the somewhat questionable charge of being a suspected gang member. He was released on his own recognizance in relatively short order. Nevertheless, based on what was represented in an affidavit as indicia of gang membership, the detective who had been following Bingham was able to obtain a search warrant for Bingham’s premises at 7225 Adobe Road that was served that day. While a deputy remained on watch outside, three detectives went into Bingham’s home to search it, where they came upon “about 160 firearms.” These included a Remington 870 shotgun that the department later said was the property of the department and which Bingham had stolen. Other notable finds, according to the department were a modified, fully automatic assault rifle with an attached grenade launcher, a customized AR-15 12-inch barrel assault rifle, four silencers and two projectile explosive devices. The cache represented, a detective said, “a virtual arsenal.”
Grenade launchers, which are specially designed, large caliber projectile weapons, can be legally owned in several states, although they are subject to restrictions. They are Classified as a destructive device by the National Firearms Act. Silencers can be legally purchased and owned under the penal codes of 42 states, with California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island having outlawed them outright or restricting them to those who have a permit to outfit their guns with them.
In addition to the weaponry and ammunition found at Bingham’s house, investigators found what they cataloged as “gang paraphernalia.” In his bedroom closet was a vest with multiple Mongols patches and insignia, including a red and white “1%er” [one-percenter] patch, which is a common piece of regalia that motorcycle club members wear to signal that they are among the one percent of motorcycle riders who are bonafide criminals and not among the 99 percent of motorcycle owners who are law abiding. Another patch bore the acronym “MFFM,” interpreted as “Mongols Forever Forever Mongols.”
The upshot, those investigators insist, is that Bingham is a gang member. With his public statement, Sheriff Shannon Dicus said as much.
On April 10, San Bernardino Sun reporter Joe Nelson was able to carry out an exclusive interview with Bingham at the West Valley Detention Center where he is being housed. During that interview, according to Nelson, Bingham told him, “100 percent, I am not a Mongols gang member.”
The Mongols self-describe themselves using law enforcement’s imposed sobriquet of an “outlaw motorcycle club” and are ranked as the world’s fifth-largest such organization behind, respectively, the Hells Angels, the Bandidos, the Outlaws and the Pagans. Mongols members individually and as a group have been subject to repeated legal challenges both civil and criminal, with many of its members and leaders convicted of murder, assault, racketeering, engaging in the illegal distribution of drugs, money laundering, robbery, extortion and firearms violations. While being a member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club may expose prospective members to illegal activities, not all members engage in criminal behavior, and the club’s bylaws officially prohibit criminals and drug users from being members. While criminal activity the gang or its members participate in have legal consequences, being a Mongols gang member is not inherently illegal. Similarly, associating with, socializing with, being acquainted with, being in the presence of or knowing a Mongol member – or any gang member – is not in and of itself a crime. Possessing or displaying so-called indicia of gang membership is not expressly illegal nor is it clear what the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department meant by the use of the term “gang paraphernalia.”
The sheriff’s department has acknowledged that on March 23, when Bingham was spotted by the detective surveilling him and then encountered by the Highway Patrol officer who later effectuated his arrest, he was not overtly making a show of his Mongol affiliation. The shirt he was wearing with the Mongol references was beneath a jacket and the ring with the Mongols signet was on a chain around his neck, neither of which was apparent until he was subject to a more exacting search at the Banning incarceration facility.
The quick action of the sheriff’s department on March 23 in which it used the Mongols “indicia” on Bingham’s person as at least a partial basis contained in the affiddavit for a search warrant to obtain that search warrant and then serve it undeniably resulted in the department’s investigators finding within Bingham’s premises the items – weaponry, equipment and further gang indicia – which the has now formed the basis of the charges against Bingham. Nevertheless, the department’s investigators might have gotten out in front of themselves. Undoubtedly, the search warrant will come under attack by a Franks motion, which will call into question the sufficiency, veracity of the search warrant. Moreover, the manner in which the case against Bingham has been pursued sets up the grounds for a a 402 motion to exclude that evidence if the matter should get to a pretrial or preliminary hearing stage.
Bingham’s mere possession of Mongols paraphernalia, while indicative of something, is hardly probative that he is a gang member. The internal chambers of the Fontana Police Department, for example, is a veritable museum of Hells Angels regalia, equipment, symbols and memorabilia. That Bingham kept Mongels patchwork as souvenirs is not criminal. That he rode his own motorcycle in the company of Mongols members does not establish him either as a member of the Mongols or as a criminal. While the prosecution may want to put on a case-in-chief against Bingham relating to the firearms, explosive devices and banned equipment such as the silencers and simultaneously have the jury hear about his gang affiliation, Evidence Code section 352 states that if evidence is not less probative than it is prejudicial the trial court has the discretion to exclude it.
As a matter of course, the attorney representing Bingham will most certainly allege, with cause, that the detectives with the department omitted facts from the search warrant affidavit and that they failed to present mitigating evidence that would have caused the magistrate to not issue the warrant. If Bingham’s defense team succeeds in establishing, as Bingham has already unequivocally stated to Nelson, that he is not a Mongols member, the prosecution’s current strategy, which includes seeking gang enhancements with regard to the ten charges now lodged against the deputy is weakened. If his defense team goes beyond that to convincingly refute the representations contained in the affidavit for the search warrant that the indicia in his possession established him as a Mongols member, the search warrant itself could be invalidated and therefore the fruit of the search at Bingham’s home – the 160 or firearms, the explosive devices, Mongols paraphernalia and whatnot – deemed inadmissible evidence against Bingham.
Yet even if the prosecution manages to move beyond that threshold and have the search warrant and all that it led to upheld, the coast for the prosecution is not automatically clear. There is still the consideration that Bingham was a gun dealer in good standing, that he had or maybe yet holds a federal a federal firearms license, one that would have or maybe yet allows him to warehouse the items found in his home for sale to out-of-state purchasers.
Sheriff Dicus, perhaps, cannot be faulted for wanting to purge his department of any members who are involved in any criminal activity or have entangled themselves directly or even indirectly with criminal figures or those who are actively engaged in violating the law or participating in murder, kidnapping, racketeering, the illegal distribution of drugs, money laundering, robbery or extortion. At the same time, it is not clearly established at this point that any of those Mongols Bingham had contact with were engaged in any such activity and there is nothing at all that has been publicly revealed to indicate Bingham was himself involved in any of that.
Another anomaly, a disturbing one that must be resolved, relates to exactly what Bingham was up to and how or why certain lines – indeed wires – were crossed. Bingham was a Marine turned lawman yet living in a community chock full of Marines, ones engaging in testosterone-driven forms of amusement, such as acquiring guns and then riding out into remote areas of the desert to engage in target practice. In their orbit and hanging out at the same watering holes were members of the dominant biker gang. In such a cauldron, extraordinary and crazy things can occur. Bingham was plopped down right in the middle of all of that, a window into that world, someone who had established trust among people with certain lifestyles who are normally distrustful of law enforcement personnel. Yet five days a week, week-in and week-out, he was reporting to work as sheriff’s deputy. If the sheriff’s department was not availing itself of the insight he could provide into certain reaches of the community, it should have. Indeed, it is hard to accept that the department didn’t value Bingham for the intelligence he could pass on. Sheriff’s deputies who are bold enough to report to work Monday through Friday or Saturday thru Thursday or Sunday through Friday, working the streets, collaring criminals or working the jails and dealing with inmates and then, one day a week or two days a week ride with members of an outlaw motorcycle club have to be pretty rare. Someone such as that must also be either brave or not very smart. According to Sheriff Dicus and District Attorney Jason Anderson, Bingham was the latter, someone who mistakenly believed he could be involved in a criminal enterprise and serve as a lawman at the same time. An alternative theory is that Bingham isn’t stupid but rather intrepid, riding the cutting edge and gathering information for the department among the crooks, crannies and recesses of society where normal peace officers cannot or dare not go to serve as the eyes and ears of the law. Under that theory, on March 23 and then again on April 4, the sheriff’s department blew what little cover Bingham had. If that theory, as far fetched as it is, is true, the questions are: Why? Why was the department willing to give up a scout who had advanced not just up to the doorstep of what Sheriff Dicus calls “an outlaw motorcycle gang” but right into the living room? What has Christopher Bingham learned from the unique vantage point he had acceded to? Why is there now a move on to discredit him?
In court for a hearing before Judge Colin Bilash in Department S2 in San Bernardino Superior Court on April 9, Bingham was clad in blue, to distinguish him from the general population of the San Bernardino County jail system, members of which wear orange jumpsuits. He is being held in protective custody, separate from other inmates who might take the opportunity to harm him, given that he is, or at least was, a law enforcement officer. It was Bingham’s first court appearance beyond his April 5 video arraignment. He appeared, if not frightened, confused and out of his element.
District Attorney Anderson has assigned Deputy District Attorney Alberto Juan, who has previously handled multiple serious felony cases including murder prosecutions, to the case.
Given the difficulties the case represents, however, there is an expectation that the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office might back off and allow the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to take up the matter.
Federal prosecutors have had a mixed degree of traction prosecuting the Mongols in recent years. The U.S. Department of Justice has put as much or even more of a priority in going after the Mongols as the granddaddy of all criminal motorcycle gangs, the Hells Angels. According the U.S. Department of Justice, the Mongols exists as “a highly organized criminal organization.”
The intensity with which the U.S. Attorney has wanted to undercut the Mongols is demonstrated by the determination with which the federal government sought, in the penalty phase of a racketeering conviction obtained against the Mongols in 2015, to use civil forfeiture laws to seize all right to the Mongols emblems and patches to prevent members from wearing them. At the center of this controversy is the Mongols’ insignia, which shows a Mongol warrior reputed to be Genghis Khan with a topknot, wearing bell-bottoms and sunglasses, riding a motorcycle. After the federal government argued that the Mongols should surrender their ownership of the insignia – which is trademarked with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – Federal District Judge David O. Carter dismissed the case. The federal government pressed on and in 2019, after a In January 2019, a California jury had ruled that federal prosecutors could strip the motorcycle club of its brand, but a panel of federal judges with the United States District Court for the Central District of California concluded that would violate the First Amendment’s right to free expression and the Eight Amendment protection from excessive punishment.
For his part, Bingham may prefer to wrestle with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the matter rather than with Anderson and Juan, given their degree of allegiance to the sheriff’s department.

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