SALEM — Frustrated Essex County prosecutors were forced yesterday to drop all charges against a group of reputed Hells Angels members set to stand trial on charges of kidnapping and extortion.
That’s because prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s office refused to obey a judge’s order to turn over evidence they were holding in the case.
Instead of complying with the Salem Superior Court judge’s order to provide reports of interviews of witnesses in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s office on Friday filed its own charges — a decision that stunned both local prosecutors and the lawyers for the four defendants scheduled to stand trial yesterday.
Federal prosecutors had decided in May that they did not have sufficient evidence to pursue federal charges, a decision revealed last week in court by the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation.
But when Essex County prosecutors pursued the case, that appears to have given federal prosecutors some leverage in convincing one of the defendants to cooperate in an ongoing federal investigation, lawyers for the defense suggested.
Opening statements in the case had been set to get underway yesterday morning, following two weeks of jury selection and other pretrial matters, all of which took place under daily, heavy security.
Instead, prosecutors filed a motion to cease prosecution of the case, and the jury, which took nearly two weeks to select, was sent home.
Sean “Big Sean” Barr, 48, of Lynn; Robert A. Defronzo, 45, of Saugus; Marc Eliason, 36, a former Danvers man now living in Lynn; and Brian Weymouth, 41, of Danvers, who is said to be a member of an affiliated group called the Red Devils, were whisked to the federal courthouse in Boston, where they and a fifth man, George Brown, 49, of Salem, an alleged Red Devil, made an initial appearance on charges of racketeering, court records show.