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Bikernet Interviews - Hells Angel Rusty Coones


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First of all, I am a little nervous in taking on this task. I do not want to ruffle any feathers. On the other hand, I'm honored to interview the president of the Orange County Chapter of the Hells Angels.

I, myself, have been suspicious and skeptical of the government and its role in our lives since the early ’60s, when I got involved in news worthy events. Since then I have repeatedly seen confirmations of what I had previously suspected. Now I try not to be so judgmental and allow some time to pass to get a better view before taking a stand.

Bikernet: Being a member of the Hells Angels and president of one of its chapters, what is life like where you are? Are you treated any differently than other inmates? How do inmates and employees of the system treat you?

RC: I was arrested on June 6, 1999, in Orange County, Calif. I was taken to Santa Ana city jail, a new facility that contracts with the feds to house prisoners who have cases in Orange County. I was segregated to what is referred to as the hole while in Orange County. Basically you are locked down in a Single-man cell 23 hours a day, with one hour out to shower and make a phone call. About a week later, I was transferred to Metropolitan Detention Center in L.A. At the time of this writing, November 22, I have been in Los Angeles almost 18 months. Metropolitan Detention Center is a 10-story building that houses about 1,000 federal inmates at a time. It's owned and run by the federal Department of Corrections. Here I'm on a floor with 100 to 140 people, with access to a small recreation deck that has a universal weight machine on it.

Most of the time, our cells are unlocked from 6:30 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Considering the fact that all of our food is microwaved, it's not that bad, sometimes even good.

The biggest thing for me is getting used to the slowness of life here. Outside I was always busy doing things I liked to do with people around me that I wanted to be with. As far as how I'm treated compared to other inmates, in most respects the same. Except when I am transported to court, I get a marshal’s SWAT team escort. At least I don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic; they hit the lights and sirens and everybody moves out of the way.

I get along pretty good with most of the people here. My philosophy is to treat people the way I would like to be treated, until they give me reason not to. I am not suffering from any ego problems, where you have to prove how tough you are all the time, anyway.

BN: Do you have access to computers and the Internet? If so, do you do any surfin' on the World Wide Web? If so, how does the Internet help with what you want to accomplish? What do you want to accomplish with your time in the upcoming months?

No, we do not have access to computers or the Internet here. Wish we did. At home I was on the computer and net every day. I do have a Web site, www.freerusty.com, which is run by volunteers. I can be e-mailed at freerusty@yahoo.com . My e-mail is printed out and snail-mailed to me. The Internet has been a great way to get my message out to people in our culture. I have a lot of information regarding politics, discrimination, bikers' rights and the drug war on my Web site. If it is not on my site, we are linked to it on somebody else's. The site has also generated a lot of support and donations that have helped defray some of the cost of defending myself in this case.

BN: Do they have a library for your use, research and reading?

RC: Yes, they have a law library here. There are also a lot of books floating around in the unit I'm in. I have studied and read a lot of books since I've been here, and will continue to learn as much as I can absorb while incarcerated. One thing that

I have noticed is that our culture is far too apathetic when it comes to voting, etc. We are the first ones to bitch about unfair laws, but if we don't vote or do anything to effect change, then we've got no right to bitch. Right now, maybe one out of three eligible voters actually votes. Our country is basically sitting by while 25 to 30 percent of the population decides who's doing what. We have almost no representation. You think your vote doesn't count? Look at this presidential election. Only a few votes made the difference.

Any way I'm hoping I can influence some of us to get involved in politics and effect change before it's too late. If you want change, vote independent or third party. Most Americans aren't left wing or right wing, but in the middle, that's why we need to support third party candidates that want to safeguard our civil rights and feel as we do on the issues.

BN: How about a weight room to keep yourself in shape?

RC: As I said earlier, there is a universal machine on the recreation deck here and while it is not my optimum choice for a workout, it's better than no weights at all. I always liked free weights when given the choice. I usually work out about an hour a day. So far I've maintained my normal 280-285 pound body weight.

BN: Reading the newspaper account of your guilty plea proceedings on Sept. 19, it was revealed that you had a history of counseling drug and alcohol abusers. Could you elaborate on this?

RC: In the ’80s, I lost a younger brother to heroin addiction, and helped to get a few friends into programs for the treatment of cocaine and alcohol abuse. I got interested in opening a treatment center around 1987. In 1991, I opened First Step Treatment Centers Inc., with a facility in Laguna Beach, Calif., and one in Fontana, Calif. I was not a counselor; I ran the business end dealing with the paperwork, etc. I had to close the business in 1995. Insurance companies cut back on benefits for patients after Hillary Clinton’s national health care scare. It's too bad; it was a good business to be in and helped a lot of people. We put some people through the program for free, when we had the openings, but it was expensive to operate and we had to depend on contracts with the insurance companies to survive at that time.

BN: What can be done to change public opinion concerning the government's "War on Drugs"? It's easy to sling bricks at the status quo, but a plan to change public opinion is really needed.

RC: If people were told the truth about drug use and the drug war, their opinions might change. There are mountains of information on my Web site about this, but I'll try to explain a little about it here.

First of all, the myth that drugs are the single most dangerous threat to our children and society in general is government propaganda. Fact: Over 400,000 people a year die from tobacco use. Fact: Over 100,000 people a year die of alcohol use. If you put all illegal drug deaths together, per year, in the U.S., you have 6,000 total. Of those 6,000 drug deaths per year, most are from heroin overdoses, because illegal heroin varies in quality, resulting in accidental overdoses.

As far as crime associated with drugs, of course there is crime. Any time you prohibit alcohol or drugs, you create a black market. The fact that drugs are illegal makes them expensive to obtain. Addicts have to steal to support their habits. Prohibition, also, breeds corruption. If drugs were to be somehow controlled but made available to users (legally), the violence, corruption, death, and the value of drugs would drop through the floor. With no money in it any more, the foreign cartels would collapse, the dealers would be out of business, and the robbers that prey on them would also be out of business.

We learned the lesson with prohibition of alcohol already, but there are powerful lobbyists working everyday to expand the drug war in the name of big corporations. The truth is that the drug war is big business for the many government agencies and private corporations benefit by this war. If you count all the local, state and federal money spent on the drug war every year, including prison beds, it totals around $73 billion a year. The prison industrial complex is huge; the only employer in the U.S. that is larger than the Bureau of Prisons is General Motors. We have over 2 million people in prisons in the U.S. Crime has been declining for over 20 years, but we are giving non-violent drug offenders more time than people convicted of much more serious crimes.

BN: What can be done to illustrate the fact that drug use is not necessarily drug abuse?

RC: Drug use and drug abuse are two different things, just like alcohol use and alcohol abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse are social problems and should be treated that way. It has been proven that education and treatment are much more effective than jail, and a lot cheaper. I think that attacking the demand side of the problem through education and treatment is far more effective than going after the supply side.

Kids from the age of 12 to 18 should be required to attend drug, alcohol and sex education classes every year until they graduate high school. Show them AIDS patients at hospitals. Tour hospital emergency wards with them to see the damage done by drunk drivers. Tour prisons and jails with them to show them the end result.

To drink a beer socially is alcohol use. To drink till you puke is alcohol abuse. Anytime a person drinks or uses drugs so often to affect their health, or others, they are abusing. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others, but jail is not the answer. To get to the point, anytime drug use or alcohol use affects your social life, family, health or job in a negative way, it has become abuse. An occasional beer or occasional joint isn't abuse, it's use.

BN: What is there about you, Rusty Coones, that you want people to know, that possibly they do not already know?

RC: It's true that I am in jail on a drug charge, but the myth that the club is in the drug business is just as I said, a myth. Whenever a member has been arrested on drug charges, it is always his personal business, not the club's. Our club is a motorcycle club, period. When a cop gets arrested for drugs, we don't assume that the whole department is involved.

BN: How are your kids taking all this, the charges, pleading and your incarceration? What have they shared with you concerning the whole thing?

RC: It's been hard on my kids. That has really bothered me, for them to suffer because of my problems. We are lucky to have friends who have come forward to help with them. My son just graduated from high school and my daughter is still in school and living with a great family. We miss each other and I don't ever want them to have to go through anything like this in their lives. They're both good kids and I know they will do well in life.

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Reader Comments

I think RC hit it on spot about the "War on Drugs". It has become more about the lucrative monetary side of the American penal system rather than rehabilitation of American citizens in an economic optimal way.

Wango Tango
Houston, TX
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Editor Response It's all nuts today.

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