By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Beggs and Joe met to go over the story, along with Gustafson's girlfriend, Colleen Livingston, and his mother, Patricia. One of the women took notes to help Beggs remember the story. A few days later, Beggs and Joe met with Gustafson's attorney so that Beggs could practice some more.
The day before Gustafson's trial was to begin, Beggs told his story to the Minneapolis police in the lawyer's office. Beggs said he'd been drinking that night with Gustafson and had won the cocaine in a pool game. He'd slipped it into his jacket pocket, then loaned the jacket to Gustafson to wear.
The next day, however, Beggs had a change of heart: He confessed that Gustafson had bribed him. Beggs gave the police the title and keys to the Ventura as proof. He also recorded a damning conversation on tape.
"You're supposed to just say ya just won the shit, ya know what I mean?" Gustafson asks Beggs, according to the criminal complaint.
A jury convicted Joe of bribery and of conspiracy to commit perjury, both felonies, but not of the drug charges. Twenty-five years later, Gustafson cites the case as an example of how the law has continually screwed him over.
"It wasn't my coat," he says. "When I went to prison, it was for conspiracy to commit perjury and bribery—pertaining to a case I beat in a jury trial! Does that make any sense to you?"
JOE GUSTAFSON BECAME a father young, eight days before his 19th birthday, when his 18-year-old girlfriend, Colleen Livingston, had a son, Joseph Duane. Six and a half years later, Colleen gave birth to a second boy, John Albert.
When his kids were small, Joe was riding with the Hell's Angels. Before he killed the cop, Harold had introduced Joe to Paul "Rooster" Seydel, the vice president of the Minnesota chapter of the Hell's Angels.
Joe got his patch faster than any Angel in Minnesota club history—some claim he paved the way by donating about $40,000 to the club, which Joe vehemently denies. Either way, Hell's Angels membership was a point of pride for the family. Like their daddy, the young Gustafson boys wore their hair biker-style, flowing down their backs.
"John-o, when he was eight or nine, had hair past his butt," says Chris Caine, who grew up around the block from Gustafson's parents' house. "When they were kids, John-o was like, 'Oh, my dad's a Hell's Angel.'"
At some point, Gustafson got kicked out of the club. There are many stories circulating about what happened, but Gustafson won't discuss it.
"Anyhow, it just wasn't the way it was supposed to be," he says. "I should have transferred to another state is what I should have did. Because—you know what I mean—I'd probably still be in it then, you know?" In 1988, when his boys were 13 and 6, Gustafson was convicted of domestic assault. He beat Colleen, and on at least one occasion broke her fingers. Eventually, Colleen left him.
So he raised his boys alone, and they followed in his steel-toed bootsteps.
John-o's criminal history is short. He was cited at 19 for having pot in his car, and at 20 for slashing tires and knifing an enemy's shoulder at a party. His only criminal conviction was a misdemeanor, driving with a suspended license.
The older son, Joe Jr., racked up the more serious record, collecting felonies for car theft, assault, and property damage.
In 1993, Gustafson and Joe Jr. paid a visit to a house on Aldrich Avenue North, according to court records: They were looking for vengeance for a murdered friend.
"You guys got guns, we'll come back with guns," said Little Joe, inviting a shoot-out.
As father and son turned to leave, one of their enemies reached out and grabbed Big Joe. Quickly, Little Joe pulled out a knife and stabbed the assailant in the neck.
Big Joe says that court records don't tell the whole story—specifically that the men had stumbled into an ambush with a bunch of Crips who'd been picking on Little Joe. "They gutted me from my rib cage to my belly button," he says. "Lucky we got out alive."
Little Joe got a plea bargain that lowered a felony assault charge to a misdemeanor.
He was supposed to stay away from weapons and work or go back to school. But as the years passed, his violence only escalated.
In one episode outside of Gabby's Bar in northeast Minneapolis, 22-year-old Little Joe shouted racial slurs at two black men and threatened them with a knife. Then he jumped into a stolen car and gunned it, hitting four people, including his girlfriend, Mindy Heinkel. She needed surgery—a steel rod in her right femur and a steel plate in her left.
Big Joe says that Little Joe was acting in self-defense.
"There were four or five black guys assaulting my kid. He was by himself with his girlfriend," Big Joe says. "The shit was on. You know, when you get a bunch of drunk black guys in there in the first place, that should have been some kind of self-defense."