Valuable territory in New York was at the heart of a dispute between rowdy biker gangs, the Pagan’s and the Hells Angels, in the early 2000s, boiling over into all out chaos in the winter of 2002 when Pagan’s then-national treasurer and the club’s Pittsburgh chapter’s sergeant-at-arms Dennis (Rooster) Katona organized and personally spearheaded a violent blindsiding of their rivals at an annual social gathering of east coast Hells Angels known as the Hellraiser Ball. The coordinated attack took place on the afternoon of February 23, 2002 and saw vans of Pagan’s pull up to the Vanderbilt, a fancy Long Island banquet hall, and unleash havoc on their enemies inside in the form of a series of stabbings, shootings and beatings that lasted for more than a hour and resulted in the death of one of the some 70 Pagan’s assailants and the hospitalization of a dozen Hells Angels victims.

The burly, loud-spoken 50-year old Rooster Katona had a narcotics conviction thrown out by the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals earlier this month when the higher court ruled a state police warrant used to find void. He’s serving a 3-and-a-half-to-7 year sentence behind bars and should be released soon on bond while prosecutors prepare an appeal. At the time of his bust in 2011, he had risen to the position of the Pagan’s national president. Katona did four years in federal prison on charges of assault, inciting a riot and weapons violations tied to his role in the incident at the Hellraiser Ball in 2002.

The yearly Hellraiser Ball serves as a dual club party for the Hells Angels and motorcycle and tattoo exposition open to the public. There were roughly 1,000 attendees at the ill-fated 2002 bash when the Pagan’s attack occurred. Authorities confiscated over 500 deadly weapons and seized close to $5,000 worth of cocaine found at the hall.

Tensions between the two clubs were permeating for a number of years dating back to a late 1990s indictment and racketeering case that wiped out virtually the Pagan’s entire presence in New York and led to the Hells Angels coming into town to set up shop and fill the vacuum. The Hells Angels are primarily a west coast club and its desire to establish inroads in the Midwest and on the east coast has traditionally been met with strong resistance from rustbelt-centered clubs such as the Pagan’s and the Outlaws.

According to court files, Katona rounded up Pagan’s from all around the country for the siege at the Vanderbilt, recruiting club heavies from Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware and his home state of Pennsylvania (a notorious Pagan’s hotbed), to stage the epic assault. The documents identify William (Tung Foo) Grayson and Richard (Fat Cat) Mahaffey of the Pagan’s Virginia and Ohio contingents, respectively, as Katona’s primary co-conspirators in the planning of the sneak attack.

Grayson and Mahaffey shuttled club members to a Lindenhurst, New York bar in the hours preceding the bloody onslaught where the frothing group of biker madmen representing various regional factions of the club congregated as a rendezvous point to arm up and go over last-minute details. Per court records, several club members engaged in drug use in the bar’s bathroom as a means of readying themselves for war and many wrote out makeshift wills to be given to their loved ones if they didn’t survive.

A dozen vans carrying Katona, Grayson, Mahaffey and their looking-for-trouble Pagan’s brethren arrived at the posh, police-protected Plainview, New York banquet facility at around 4:00 p.m., wildly stormed into the formal affair wielding bats, knives, guns, ax handles and machetes and began destroying anything and everything in sight. Within seconds, the Hells Angels in attendance responded – some with their brass-knuckle adorned fists, others with firearms, as innocent bystanders, many women and children, fled in fear.

Five people were wounded and a half-dozen others badly stabbed in the melee. Robert (Mailman) Rutherford, a Pagan from the club’s Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania chapter, was killed, almost-shockingly the fight’s lone fatality. Katona lived in Westmoreland County when he was arrested in his most recent case. The 51-year old Rutherford was shot and stabbed, finally succumbing to his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Of the 75 people in handcuffs following the 2002 Hellraiser Ball brawl, 73 of them were Pagan’s. Court filings related to the club later in the decade said they became known in east coast biker circles as “The 73,” and were held in great esteem for their participation. Tung Foo Grayson went on to become Katona’s national vice president. Fat Cat Mahaffey died of cancer in 2012.

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