Mountain bikers angry with Marines long after crackdown by armed MPs

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MPs detain mountain bikers on a San Diego trail on Jan. 16. Photo: Courtesy of Damian Hiley

Nearly two months after the U.S. Marines confiscated 45 mountain bikes in San Diego County and cited the riders for trespassing, the property is still impounded and the cases remain unresolved.

The riders, understandably, are frustrated and angry.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that it’s taking this long,” Michael Crowell, a bike-shop owner whose $7,000 bike is among those being held, told NBC 7.

The bike seizure, by an armed military police unit, occurred the weekend of Jan. 16 near Sycamore Canyon on a trail that runs through part of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Many of the mountain bikers said they did not know the trail passes through base property. But the Marines have maintained that the trail is adequately marked with warning signs, and that trespassers are at risk because of frequent weapons training.

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The Marines have maintained that the trail in question is adequately marked with warning signs. Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Mountain Biking Association

But 50 days later, not only are these cyclists still without their bikes, the citations have not yet been entered in the system used to track federal cases, according to NBC 7, which was directed to a federal magistrate when contacted about the issue.

“There’s no record of it in the courts,” Damian Hiley, who was forced to endure a 2-mile “walk of shame” back to his car in cycling shoes after his bike was impounded, told GrindTV. “The Marines are stalling.”

Hiley said he and five friends have hired a lawyer who will try to get the misdemeanor trespassing charge reduced to a minor infraction, and to reduce the $500 penalty.

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Mountain bikers are cited for trespassing Jan. 16. Photo: Courtesy of Gilberto Ra

“But the biggest penalty so far is not having the bikes for two months,” Hiley said.

Richard Duquette, a lawyer representing other mountain bikers, told NBC 7 that he intends to file a motion arguing that there was no basis to confiscate the bikes in the first place.

The Marines claim to have filed the paperwork, but apparently it has not yet been fully processed. Duquette explained to his clients that federal misdemeanor cases can take 60 to 90 days to be processed.

Hiley, whose mountain bike cost $5,500, said those in his group are concerned about the condition of their bikes.

“It was muddy the day we were riding, and if our bikes are still full of mud,” Hiley said, “unless the Marines hosed them off, we’re probably going to have damaged components in our drivetrains.”

Hiley added that he has been mountain biking twice since Jan. 16, on a borrowed bike, and certainly not on the same trail.

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