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Outlaws member pleads no contest in racketeering case

INDIANAPOLIS – A man who prosecutors say is the enforcer for a notorious drug-dealing motorcycle gang has entered a no contest plea to a federal racketeering charge, dealing a blow to government efforts to break up what the organization.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled Tuesday that accepting Joshua Bowser’s plea would save the cost of a lengthy trial and make no difference to his punishment. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

Prosecutors opposed the no contest plea, saying that other gang members would rely on the plea to argue that the Outlaws Motorcycle Club is not an organized crime enterprise.

“The government raises public interest concerns that, although quite compelling, do not override the pragmatic considerations of avoiding an expensive and time-consuming trial,” Pratt wrote.

Bowser was the first person named in an indictment that led to a series of raids last year in which dozens of members and associates of the Outlaws motorcycle gang were arrested in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Investigators said the gang routinely used violence as part of its business, which included drug trafficking, extortion, robbery, insurance fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.

Public defenders had argued that allowing Bowser to plead guilty to nine other charges but no contest to the racketeering charge would reduce the impact of spending cuts on the federal court system. Chief Public Defender Monica Foster told The Indianapolis Star that Pratt’s ruling likely saved the government about $400,000.

Bowser is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Indianapolis.

A spokesman said the U.S. Attorney’s office had no immediate comment Wednesday. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from Foster on Wednesday.

The judge was allowing another gang member, Jamie Bolinger, to enter a no contest plea to a racketeering charge. Pratt said only one Outlaws defendant would require a jury trial, which was not expected to be lengthy.

Sentencing hearings for two other Outlaws defendants are set for Thursday and Friday.

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