Insane Clown Posse defendants in Modesto called gang members

Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2009

People who call themselves Juggalos are not gang members simply because they embrace an anarchist philosophy touted by underground band Insane Clown Posse, according to an expert who testified today in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

But four defendants suspected of assaulting a man last month in Graceada Park are gang members, the expert said, because they travel in a pack, have clothes or tattoos with a cartoon hatchetman taken from their favorite band’s logo and picked a fight when one of their own felt disrespected.

“A Juggalo gang member is someone that participates in criminal activities,” said Marissa Castilone, a crime analyst for the Modesto police who is assigned to the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force. “Not all Juggalos are street gang members.”

During the third day of a preliminary hearing, a prosecutor told the court that investigators have identified five local gangs associated with a nationwide Juggalo movement: Modesto Family Klowns, Psychopathic Criminal Klowns, Juggalo Rider Bitch, Down 2 Party and Nothing 2 Lose.

The gang expert could not place defendants Brandon Ferrell, 18, Joshua Huggins, 17, Kurt Petersen, 22, and Larry Williams, 20, in any of the five gangs.

But Castilone said the men’s unprovoked assault on Modesto resident William August – allegedly initiated by Petersen – can only be understood in the gang context.

“It proves that he is, in their words, down with the clown,” Castilone said.

August, 53, was in the park at about 9 p.m. on March 7, strolling and taking some family photos with his girlfriend and his daughters, ages 17 and 11.

According to witnesses who testified last week, Petersen sprang upon the family, asked to shake the girls’ hands and received a stern rebuff from August. About 10 minutes later, Petersen returned with four friends who pushed August to the ground and kicked August four or five times each.

Other Juggalos in the park pulled the defendants off August, whose leg was broken in two places. Police detained 15-20 young people, then arrested Ferrell, Huggins, Petersen and Williams.

Another man who reportedly participated in the attack on August was not arrested. Huggins, a minor, is being tried as an adult.

Ferrell, Huggins, Petersen and Williams had been held in lieu of $70,000 bail, but they were released on their own recognizance last week because the defendants invoked their right to a speedy trial and a prosecutor’s prior commitment made it impossible to continue the hearing without a break in the proceedings.

Judge Dawna Frenchie Reeves must decide if the defendants should be held for trial on an assault charge, and whether they should also face enhancements for causing great bodily injury and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

The judge’s decision is expected at the close of the hearing, which will resume Wednesday.

Castilone said local law enforcement officers had their first contact with Juggalos in 2005 and in the past year have noticed a growing number of young people who favor punk-rock clothing and paint their faces with crazy clown makeup.

The authorities have documented 38 Juggalos as gang members, including four who in juvenile court have been found guilty of assault, burglary and carjacking.

Some of them had indirect links to the defendants, and some of the defendants have posted photos of themselves throwing hand signs for WC – “wicked clown” on social networking Web sites.

For Castilone, the assault on August plus the gang indicia are enough to show that Ferrell, Huggins, Petersen and Williams are more than fans of a band that sings about hacking people to bits with hatchets.

“Juggalos became more than just ICP or fans of the music once they started committing their criminal activities,” Castilone said.

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