MILWAUKEE -- With a federal trial judge saying he had never before sentenced someone for so much carnage, Outlaws Motorcycle Club leader Kevin P. O'Neill was sent to prison for life on federal racketeering charges Tuesday.
The sentencing of the alleged criminal mastermind was a final chapter in a story of Mafia-style gang wars for turf centered around southern Wisconsin. Prosecutors alleged that O'Neill, a Twin Lakes native who once lived in Mount Pleasant, led bikers into battle against rival motorcycle clubs by way of bombings, shootings, and beatings.
O'Neill's family and friends boycotted the sentencing hearing, with the 44-year-old insisting through his lawyer that he is innocent of all charges. He was convicted with other Outlaws members after a three-month trial in June. His convictions were for charges including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and transporting explosives resulting in injury.
Outlaws allegedly roamed the Midwest in war parties, descending upon members of rival motorcycle gangs for murder and mayhem. Based out of a Union Grove or Janesville clubhouse, Outlaw members wearing Nazi symbols allegedly attacked rivals at spots like a populated speedway, at Slick's Tavern in Janesville, and at a Rockford, Ill. motorcycle shop. Prosecutors said that as president of the Stateline chapter of the Outlaws, O'Neill's leadership was instrumental in the planning of the violence, including multiple homicides.
Judge J. P. Stadtmueller followed federal law in grading O'Neill's conduct on a point system to arrive at the life sentence. "In my 13 1/2 years as a judge, no defendant has ever had the offense level scores that he has. It's literally off the map," Stadtmueller said.
O'Neill was brought to court in a wheel chair, the result of a July basketball injury to his Achilles' tendon while incarcerated. Doctors operated on his left foot in October. In a letter to the court, read by defense attorney William Marquis, family members said that the delay in surgery "most likely means Kevin will suffer a permanent limp."
O'Neill remained outwardly emotionless as Stadtmueller read the sentence.
"We unanimously believe that Kevin is innocent of all charges and we repudiate the jury verdicts," said the family members' statement. "It was clear to the family that this court would convict Kevin at all costs."
The statement was faxed to Marquis the night before the sentencing hearing by a family member. It says it is from parents Patricia and Robert O'Neill of Brevard, N.C., sister Colleen O'Neill-McFeeter of Sydney, Australia; brother Bob O'Neill of Twin Lakes; and brother Mike O'Neill of Carmel, Ind.
The family accused Stadtmueller of a bias towards the prosecution, adding, "the O'Neill family will not ask for leniency for Kevin because his life sentences are predictable … we believe that his fate was decided a long time ago, and his trial by jury only a small formality."
Making a point that irked defense lawyers during the trial as well, the family statement balks at the use of informants who testified in exchange for leniency. The practice, some say, encourages informants to give false testimony.
Since family members had boycotted the hearing, Stadtmueller responded to an empty courtroom, except for O'Neill, lawyers, officials, guards and reporters. The judge said that if family members had come to see the trial everyday, and if they had been able to put aside their understandable bias, they would agree that O'Neill is guilty.
"I am most comfortable with the facts as I have come to know them, regrettably, over a long period of time. They are the most heinous acts," Stadtmueller said.
At least one of the major crimes associated with O'Neill is alleged to have taken place in Racine County. Jurors convicted O'Neill by way of conspiracy and racketeering charges in the 1992 shooting death of Donald Wagner at the Hoosier Creek Road boat launch in the Town of Burlington. A different Outlaw member was accused of actually pulling the trigger.
Wagner, 46, had lived at 30220 Poplar Drive. Though prosecutors said many Outlaws' crimes were part of a larger turf war, the apparent assassination of Wagner was allegedly for mere drug money.
But Marquis implied the man he had spent three years getting to know, during preparation for trial, didn't seem to fit the mold of a murderer.
Marquis said it's interesting "when you talk to somebody … and you're in those moments when nobody's supposed to be listening, nobody's supposed to be watching … and you go for three years and you're treated always as a gentleman.
"I find it interesting how people perform when nobody's looking," Marquis said, adding that he would not attempt to retry the case at the sentencing hearing.
"I've expressed my anger," Marquis said. "I don't blow out Kevin's candle today.
"Mr. O'Neill denies all."
A clean-cut O'Neill, covered in tattoos and wearing a gray T-shirt, declined to comment at the hearing. A prosecutor said that regardless of how polite O'Neill may be, he is still guilty of directing men who looked up to him to commit acts of violence.
Other alleged Outlaws members have been sentenced in recent weeks, including Robert A. Kruppstadt, a former sexton for a Racine church who was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Carl J. Warneke, a former member of a Chicago chapter of the Outlaws, was sentenced to life in prison.
At the O'Neill sentencing hearing, the family statement promised an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago. The statement also chastised the Milwaukee federal court for:
- Alleged placement of a listening device in O'Neill's home without prior approval by a judge or the Department of Justice.
- A "carnival" atmosphere in the courtroom, including black curtains at the entrance and "platoons" of courtroom guards.