Tom MooneyThe Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE – Deric McGuire and 19 other motorcycle gang defendants won a huge legal battle two years ago when a Superior Court judge threw out crucial wiretap evidence in their drugs and gun-running case because of which judge had authorized the wiretaps.

But McGuire was not so fortunate when he recently asked the state Supreme Court to strike down another technical point of his continuing prosecution.

In 2019, Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel agreed with McGuire’s legal argument that the presiding justice of the Superior Court had delegated the job of approving wiretap interceptions in this case to a judge outside the strict line of succession.

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Under state law only the Superior Court presiding justice or the next-senior Superior Court judge can authorize wiretap interceptions. But in this case Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney gave the job to Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg, state lawyers argued, to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The next-most senior judge would have been Judge Robert D. Krause, and he handles most of the state’s gun cases, including most likely those of McGuire and his co-defendants.

But Vogel in 2019 also denied a motion by McGuire claiming the wrong person at the attorney general’s office applied for the wiretap order.

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Instead of the attorney general filing for the request, a deputy attorney general applied, McGuire’s lawyer argued.

In that instance Vogel ruled the deputy had the proper authority to ask for wiretaps.

McGuire appealed her decision to the state Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that McGuire’s appeal was essentially premature since the case against him and the other defendants is still pending — as well as state prosecutors’ appeal of Vogel’s decision regarding the wiretap evidence.

For months beginning in 2017, state and federal agents wiretapped at least seven different telephones used by McGuire, capturing, they say, his recruitment to lead a new Rhode Island chapter of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle gang and documenting his illegal drug operation.

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The investigation, dubbed Operation Patched Out, led to 29 raids in May 2018 and the seizure of drugs and weapons, including a rocket launcher. Fifty people were arrested and charged with crimes, authorities say, tied to two Woonsocket-based motorcycle gangs, the Pagans and the Kryptmen.

A 1,274-page affidavit in the case outlined how a confidential source told detectives that members of the Thug Riders were dealing drugs, and that tensions were growing among Rhode Island’s many motorcycle clubs.

McGuire, 35, of Burrillville, was released on home confinement following Vogel’s 2019 ruling on the wiretap authorization. He faces more than 220 narcotics and weapons charges.

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