CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The former national vice president of the Pagans Motorcycle Club was sentenced Friday in federal court to almost five years in prison on racketeering charges.
Floyd B. "Jesse" Moore, 65, of St. Albans, had faced a much longer sentence, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Loew asked U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston to reduce Moore's sentence because he had cooperated with the government.
After a brief closed-door hearing, Johnston reduced the sentence, but not as much as the government wanted.
As national vice president of the Pagans, Moore was one of the main defendants in a sweeping, 44-count indictment against 55 members and associates of the group unsealed in October 2009. Federal prosecutors accused the Pagans of using fear, violence and intimidation to control their territory, which stretched from New Jersey to Florida, and included West Virginia.
Moore, a member of the Pagans' 12-member governing body called the Mother Club, oversaw chapters in West Virginia, Kentucky, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Only president David K. "Bart" Barbeito, of Myersville, Md., outranked him.
In December 2009, Moore pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, conceding that the Pagans were a criminal enterprise. He admitted that, in 2006, he put Thomas Morris, president of the local chapter of the Avengers Motorcycle Club, in touch with James Ronald "Pagan Ronnie" Howerton, a convicted murderer and Moore's personal sergeant at arms, to assist in a plot to kill an ex-girlfriend of Morris.
Moore did not know that Howerton was working as a confidential informant for the FBI and had been on the government's payroll since 2004.
Johnston, noting that he had become very familiar with the Pagans as he presided over the case during the past 17 months, said Moore was the most culpable of all the defendants. Moore had shown himself to be intelligent and strong-willed, and to have a forceful personality and significant leadership skills, the judge said.
However, he said, those characteristics were put to use as Pagans under his command used violence, intimidation and fear to maintain control over their members and territory, and to keep rival motorcycle clubs out.
"This was your operation," Johnston said as he sentenced Moore to 57 months in prison. "This sentence needs to deter others from racketeering and violence."
Johnston also fined Moore $3,000.
Moore said he was sorry for what he had done, and that he hadn't intended to do anything that would send him back to prison after he was released in 1987 for a previous felony.
"I think that, at this time in my life, this is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me," Moore said, even worse than the death of his parents.
Louisville lawyer James Earhart, who was hired by Moore late last year, said Moore faced the possibility of violent reprisal because of his cooperation with the government.
"There isn't a penal institution that Mr. Moore can go to where he is going to be safe," Earhart said.
Moore forbade Pagans to use drugs, and kicked out any Pagans he saw using drugs, Earhart said. That stance led to a conflict with another Mother Club member, and there were rumors that there was a hit on Moore because of his anti-drug policy, he said.
Earhart asked Johnston to consider home confinement, but the judge imposed a prison sentence. Moore will report at a date determined by the U.S. Marshals Service.
The last Pagan sentenced
Moore was the last of the defendants from the 2009 Pagans indictment to be sentenced, and his sentence was the longest of any imposed. Barbeito, who pleaded to gun and racketeering charges, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Of the 55 defendants charged with felonies, 18 accepted deals where they pleaded guilty to a gambling misdemeanor in Kanawha County Magistrate Court and paid a $5 fine. Some of those spent months in jail while their cases were being worked out. One defendant, Charles H. "Tombstone Charlie" Nichols, of Roanoke, Va., died at the South Central Regional Jail.
Eight defendants entered pre-trial diversions, agreements in which prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against them if they stayed out of trouble for a year. A jury acquitted one defendant on a gun charge in August 2010.