By Julie Manganis
---- — SALEM — Five months after his right hand and wrist were shattered by a ball-peen hammer, the former Red Devil is still wearing a cast and bandages, visible as he raised that hand to swear an oath in court yesterday.
The alleged victim, 56, who until two weeks ago lived in a Revere bungalow, took the stand to testify against his former associates in the Red Devils and Hells Angels motorcycle clubs, describing how he was “put out bad” by the gang after failing to beat up a former member who showed up at a party last September.
He did more than testify, however; he wore a recording device that captured audio and video of one of those former associates, Marc Eliason, 35, of Danvers.
Eliason’s attorney didn’t even try to convince Judge John Lu to release him on bail, joining a second suspect, Sean Barr, 48, of Lynn, in waiving his right to a hearing on the request by prosecutors to hold them and four others without bail.
After a hearing where Lu was shown the surveillance video, he ordered three of the other suspects: George Brown, 49, of Salem, Mass., Brian Weymouth, 41, of Danvers, and Robert Defronzo, 45, of Saugus, held without bail. One defendant, Nikolas Avelis, 54, of Gloucester, said to be the president of the Red Devils, will be allowed to be released on the condition that he post $5,000 bail and remain confined to his home, monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet.
All six have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, mayhem and extortion, the charges stemming from a series of incidents that led to one brutal confrontation inside the Red Devils “clubhouse” in a Byfield strip mall last October.
Under questioning by prosecutor A.J. Camelio, the former Red Devil, a burly man sporting tattoos, a goatee beard and black-rimmed, yellow tinted eyeglasses, described how a former Hells Angels member showed up at a Sweet 16 party for his girlfriend’s daughter.
That man “was put out bad,” said the alleged victim. “He messed up with the club.”
Under the club’s rules, the alleged victim and other Red Devils were required to give the man a beating.
Did they? asked Camelio.
“No, we didn’t,” said the alleged victim.
Soon, his life began to fall apart. Barr, a Hells Angel who worked with the alleged victim, ordered him to quit his job. Then, he was ordered to attend a meeting, where he was told he too was being “put out bad.” “I took my vest off, my belt buckle, and turned it over to him.”
A couple of weeks later, he got another call. Brown, who was the president of the Hells Angels, and Avelis wanted to meet him at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 1 in Saugus. They had heard that he was talking to the “Outlaws,” another biker gang.
On that afternoon, Oct. 15, Brown told him that he had to go to the clubhouse in Byfield.
All six men were there, he said.
“Sean started chewing me out,” said the alleged victim. “I was running my mouth about work,” the job he’d been forced to leave. “I tried to explain ... then someone said were you calling his brother a liar? I just shut up.”
“They wanted my bike,” he went on.
“Eli (Eliason) grabbed me by the throat and said if I reported it stolen,” the alleged victim said. That’s the last thing he recalled before coming to on the floor, a gash on his head.
Barr told him he’d probably need stitches. Then he asked “either my hand or my knees.”
The alleged victim saw the ball-peen hammer in Barr’s hand, he said. “I knew I was either going to get whacked in the hand or the knees. I put my right hand out. I flinched a few times.”
That’s when Defronzo told him that if he didn’t hold his hand still, Defronzo would hold it for him.
The man pointed to the two places where the hammer came down on his hand and wrist and described the injuries.
“Someone gave me a bag of ice. I don’t know who it was.”
Weymouth and Eliason, meanwhile, had taken the man’s keys and went to Revere to take the bike.
“Sean gave me a month to get the title,” said the man. And Defronzo told him “If I went to the cops, he’d be by the house.”
What did that mean, asked the prosecutor.
“I couldn’t answer that,” said the man.
But getting the title wasn’t easy. He still owed money on the bike, $1,255. Weeks turned into months.
Barr at one point suggested that someone might be able to help him get the money.
Eliason was more insistent, however. He accused the man of blowing him off. If he didn’t hand over the title the next day, Eliason allegedly told the man, “He was going to break my legs, kill me, but before that, he was going to rape my girlfriend in front of me and go after my son.”
He said he would be back the next day.
Jeff Wood, an FBI agent who oversees gang cases on the North Shore, outfitted the man with a recording device hidden on him.
In the resulting video, Eliason is seen driving up in a white pickup.
“How you doing, Eli? I got some good news. I have it.” He told Eliason his girlfriend had borrowed the money.
The alleged victim was cautious. “I just want to make sure, what happened to my hand, I appreciate what you said, how it would have been a lot worse,” he says, trying to find out whether there was more in store for him.
“You got my word, ain’t nobody gonna bother you,” Eliason says, instructing the alleged victim to sign the title but not to date it. “You did the right thing.”
“My son?” asks the alleged victim, sighing. “The threats yesterday, my family?”
“I said, if you blew me off today. Those were promises, not threats,” Eliason tells him “If you blew me off today, you were going to open up a (expletive) show.”
Stephen Neyman, Avelis’ lawyer, argued that his client said nothing and did nothing during any of the encounters. “He didn’t say one thing,” said Neyman.
While the other lawyers made similar arguments highlighting what they say was the limited implication of their clients compared with Barr and Eliason, only Neyman was successful in winning bail for his client.
Carmine Lepore, who represents Brown, said his client served in both the Army and Navy and is “100 percent disabled,” as a result. “A simple stay away order is all that’s required for Mr. Brown to return to his life,” said Lepore.
All six are due back in court April 2 for a pre-trial hearing in the case.