Plymouth Observer 06/28/01 Oakland attorney sues to uncover biker list compiled by State PoliceBy Mike Malott HomeTown News ServiceIt's just a Freedom of Information Act dispute now, but depending on how the state responds to a lawsuit filed by a Bingham Farms attorney, it could turn into a case reminiscent of the old Michigan State Police "Red Files" controversy.Lawrence Katkowsky, attorney for the motorcyclist lobbying group ABATE, has filed suit in Oakland County Circuit Court seeking "all lists . . . of members and associates of motorcycle clubs in the state" by the Michigan State Police and its Criminal Intelligence Unit.Katkowsky contends that State Police have been compiling a list of people who belong to such motorcycle clubs across the state."No, that's not true," said David Verhougstraete, spokesman for the State Police, said. "That would be against the law. That goes back to the days of the Red Files. We don't keep lists on gangs . . . . There is no such list. We don't keep lists whether it's of the gang across town or militia members." Katkowsky however pointed out that that was not the department's first response. When he filed an FOI request with the State Police in April, the answer he got back, dated May 15, was that the "request has been denied . . . in order to prevent an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."David Fedewa, the assistant FOIA Coordinator for the State Police who wrote that response, said it does not count as a confirmation of the existence of the list."I did not think there was a list, but at the time I was not 100 percent sure," Fedewa said. "I was running late and on deadline. I went with the exemption on privacy because if there was such a list, releasing it would be an invasion of privacy."Chris DeWitt, spokesman for the state Attorney General, which will represent the State Police in the lawsuit, also could not confirm whether the list exists. He said the paperwork had just been referred to his office, so he could not comment. The case has been assigned to attorney Thomas Quasarano, who said he would be meeting with State Police officials to determine whether there is such a list, even if it was misidentified in Katkowsky's request.The state must respond to the lawsuit by July 9. The case has been assigned to Judge Gene Schnelz."Well, there is a list and I can prove it," Katkowsky said.He said he has a copy of one page of it, page 37 of 48. The list includes names, addresses and Social Security numbers, he said. Further, the sheet identifies itself as a Michigan State Police document. It also indicates it comes from the department's Criminal Intelligence Unit.Katkowsky said he doesn't know how many people are included on the list, why it has been compiled or how it is being used. That's why he wants to see it.He suspects he's on it since he is both a rider himself and because he's the attorney for Michigan chapter of the advocacy group, American Bikers Aiming Toward Education.The list came to light, Katkowsky contended, because a Charlevoix man was turned down for a renewal of his permit to carry a concealed weapon. The reason given was that his name appeared on that State Police list, identifying him as an associate of motorcycle club members in that area.The fact the list turned up there indicates that State Police have already "invaded the privacy" of those on the list, Katkowsky stated, and has already distributed it to other agencies such as CCW boards and police departments."The list includes Social Security numbers. How'd they get that information? No legal way I know of," Katkowsky said.If indeed the State Police have been compiling a list of bikers, it would be inappropriate, Katkowsky contended."Most bikers are guys who ride and they are just like you and me," he said. "They work at their jobs, they pay their taxes and they go home to their families in the evening. They are men, men and women, who just like to ride their motorcycles in their spare time."There are hard-core bikers, he said, "the one-percenters, who see themselves as the toughest of the tough. It will usually say '1%' somewhere on their jackets."Even those riders are law-abiding and cooperate with police, Katkowsky said. The image of the outlaw biker gang is largely a fiction of Hollywood, he contended."People who ride come from all walks of life," he said, "and that includes those who belong to a club."Katkowsky also sees the comparisons to the "Red Files." Throughout the 1960s, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police gathered information about suspected communists and communist-front organizations. When the existence of those files came to light in the 1970s, it created a long-standing controversy. Many state residents wanted to know if they were included in the list and what information police had compiled about them. The court case involving the State Police is still not completely settled.