Justin James “Mooch” DeLoretto, a longtime member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club in Oregon, has successfully sued the Oregon Youth Authority.
DeLoretto earned a bachelors degree after he joined the Mongols about a decade ago. In 2015, he enrolled in a program to earn a Master of Social Work degree from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. According to his attorney, Michael D. Myers, DeLoretto’s “career objective is to work with gang-affected youth in the criminal justice system.” After he completed his course work, before he could earn his graduate degree, he had to successfully complete an internship.
He applied for and was accepted for an internship at the Youth Authority. Last August, on his second day of work, the Assistant Director of the Youth Authority took DeLoretto’s internship away from him because he had “received complaints from five law enforcement officials about Justin’s presence at OYA due to his Mongols Motorcycle Club membership.” The law enforcement officials have never been named.
DeLoretto thought he should be judged on who he is, rather than the gossip faceless and anonymous policemen share, so he sued. Through his lawyer, DeLoretto complained that his “internship was terminated solely because of his Mongols Motorcycle Club membership.” That, “undisclosed law enforcement officials told OYA that they wanted and expected Justin’s internship to be terminated because of his Mongols Motorcycle Club membership.” And that, “termination of employment for exercising freedom of speech, expression and association violates the First Amendment’s protection from government intrusion on these guaranteed constitutional rights.”
DeLoretto was able to fulfill his degree requirements by participating in an Oregon Department of Human Service internship. He was awarded his graduate degree on April 29 and later this spring he reached a settlement with the Youth Authority that awarded him $1,001 and lawyers fees.
Myers told the Eugene Register-Guard that the case “was about the principle rather than the money.”