Federal prosecutor defends Hells Angel conviction

CHEYENNE, Wyo (AP) - A former Nevada brothel owner and Hells Angels member got a fair trial and an adequate defense before his conviction a few years ago on child pornography charges in Wyoming, a federal prosecutor said in a court filing this week.

David Burgess filed a lawsuit late last year challenging his conviction and 15-year prison sentence for possession and transportation of child pornography. He claimed his original defense lawyer was inadequate and asked for a new trial.

Burgess is a member of a Nevada chapter of the Hells Angels and former owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, a legal brothel near Reno, Nev. Prosecutors say investigators found a vast collection of child porn on two hard drives confiscated from Burgess' motorhome during a 2007 traffic stop in western Wyoming.

"There can be no doubt, let alone a grave doubt, that Burgess knowingly possessed child pornography as he traveled from Nevada into Wyoming," a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in 2009. The U.S. Supreme Court later that year refused to review Burgess' case.

In his lawsuit filed in December, Burgess asked U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne, who presided over Burgess' 2007 trial, to set aside the convictions.

For his latest legal effort, Burgess has retained San Francisco attorney Tony Serra, a nationally prominent civil rights lawyer who gained fame defending members of the Black Panthers and other groups in the 1960s.

Johnson in December ordered the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wyoming to respond to Burgess' claims that he didn't receive a fair trial.

Federal prosecutor Jim Anderson originally prosecuted Burgess in 2008. Anderson filed a lengthy response on Wednesday to Burgess' lawsuit. Anderson denied Burgess' claims and said the evidence against him was overwhelming.

An attempt to reach Serra for comment wasn't immediately successful on Thursday. Anderson declined comment on the case.

The main thrust of Burgess' argument before Johnson is that Jim Barrett, the federal public defender who represented Burgess at trial, failed to prepare an adequate defense. While Barrett has declined comment on the case, Anderson wrote that Barrett is a highly competent, seasoned defense attorney who did the best he could under the circumstances.

In his court filing, Anderson dismissed Burgess' claims that Barrett had failed to prepare defense witnesses to present Burgess, "as a man of excellent character and a great member of the community."

"This is pure fantasy," Anderson wrote. "Regardless of how much witness preparation had occurred in this case, it would not have changed the basic facts: on July 24, 2007, (Burgess) a brothel owner and member of an outlaw motorcycle gang, was apprehended in possession of drugs and tens of thousands of images of child pornography."

Now that Anderson has filed his response, it's up to Johnson whether he wants to hold an evidentiary hearing on Burgess' claims. The judge could also rule either for or against Burgess' request to set aside his convictions.


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