INDIANAPOLIS — Lawyers for an alleged enforcer for a drug-dealing motorcycle gang have asked a judge to allow him to make a rare no-contest plea to one of the toughest charges against him to help lessen the impact of this year's automatic spending cuts on the federal court system.
Federal public defenders for Joshua N. Bowser made the unusual request in documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. Bowser was the first person named in a 2011 indictment that led to a series of early-morning raids in which dozens of members and associates of the Outlaws motorcycle gang were arrested in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. Court records show that 51 people were eventually charged.
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.
In court documents filed Thursday, federal public defenders ask Judge Tanya Walton Pratt to allow Bowser to plead guilty to all of the charges against him except the most serious racketeering charge that lies at the heart of the government's case. The document says Bowser wants to plead no contest to that charge even though the court still could punish him as if he were convicted. Bowser said "he will accept personal responsibility without pointing fingers at anyone else."
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.
Federal prosecutors said in a response that allowing no contest pleas for Bowser and other Outlaws would undermine government efforts to dismantle them as a racketeering organization and put him in a position to maintain his leadership of the gang from inside prison and after he is released.
But defense attorneys say that allowing Bowser to plead no contest is in the public's best interest.
"Our federal government is in the midst of a fiscal meltdown," they argue, and federal courts have been hit especially hard by automatic spending cuts that required a $350 million budget reduction. The document cites a letter to Vice President Joe Biden from 87 chief federal judges that more cuts that are anticipated will compromise the courts' "constitutional duties, public safety and the quality of the justice system."