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Riverside County Settles Defamation Lawsuit With Biker Club

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RIVERSIDE  (AP) — Riverside County settled a lawsuit on Monday with the Vagos Motorcycle Club, acknowledging the bikers were not involved in attacks against Hemet police and calling comments by the former district attorney “unfortunate.”

The county announced the settlement, which contained no monetary compensation, in a statement late Monday, the Press-Enterprise reported. Instead, the settlement contained a public statement which referred to a press conference last year by then-District Attorney Rod Pacheco. It also included the return of property to Vagos members seized during raids by authorities last year.

“Any emotionally charged or colorful remarks made by, or at the direction of, the former District Attorney, Rod Pacheco, during the heat of the investigation which were expressly or impliedly offensive to the Vagos are unfortunate.”

“After a thorough investigation, law enforcement authorities are “reasonably satisfied, at this time, that the Vagos International Motorcycle Club was not involved in the 2010 attacks on law enforcement officers,” the statement said.

Investigators first focused on the Vagos following the December 2009 funeral of a Vagos member and confrontation with police in Hemet.

The next day, a gas line was rigged to explode at the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force building.

Eight other attacks followed, including the torching of four code-enforcement trucks and a booby trap that fired a bullet at an officer opening a security gate. The Vagos were never linked to any of the attacks.

Two men, Nicholas Smit, 40 and Steven Hansen, 37, were later arrested. Smit is charged with five of the attacks, including one incident where Hansen is also charged with trying to launch a defective World War-II bazooka round at the Hemet Police Department.

County officials acknowledged Monday that neither of the men were Vagos members.

“We’re all lucky cooler heads prevailed and saw fit do something righteous,” Vagos attorney Joseph Yanny told the newspaper.

“This was never about money, it was about clearing their good name. They’ve been trashed and mistreated, I’m just glad the county saw fit to restore the reputations of these good men,” Yanny said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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