Update, 2/24/20: Lengthy Vagos Motorcycle Club trial ends with acquittals
A Las Vegas jury went home for the weekend without reaching verdicts in the federal racketeering trial against a group of Vagos Motorcycle Club members.
The eight defendants face charges that could put them away for life.
Jurors, who began deliberating Wednesday afternoon after six days of closing arguments, will reconvene Monday morning.
On trial are Vagos leaders Pastor Fausto Palafox, Albert Lopez, Albert Benjamin Perez, James Patrick Gillespie and Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, and club members Bradley Michael Campos, Cesar Vaquera Morales and Diego Chavez Garcia.
They were indicted in 2017 on various charges, including conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder, and using a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime.
The indictment covered a slew of alleged crimes characterized as a broad criminal conspiracy dating to 2005 and spanning more than a decade, including the fatal September 2011 shooting of rival Hells Angels leader Jeffrey Pettigrew inside a Sparks casino. At the time, Vagos and Hells Angels members were in Sparks for an annual motorcycle festival.
Throughout the trial, which began with jury selection in July, jurors heard two different versions of the 2011 shooting.
According to the defense, the government’s case was largely built on the lies of its star witness, ousted Vagos member Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, who received immunity for his testimony against his former allies. In September, he admitted to lying under oath when he said the killing was a planned attack authorized by Palafox, then-international president, causing a major trial disruption.
The prosecution disavowed Rudnick but maintained throughout the trial that Pettigrew’s death was an assassination carried out by a violent gang.
“These are grown men with twisted and distorted notions of camaraderie and brotherhood,” federal prosecutor John Han said Wednesday. “They’re grown men who derive pleasure in instilling fear in people through intimidation and violence.”
But defense attorney Michael Kennedy has said that Gonzalez was “acting in the defense of others” when he fired at Pettigrew, who after picking a fight with Rudnick and other Vagos members began “actively shooting” on the casino floor alongside another Hells Angels member. Two people were shot, including Garcia, one of the men on trial.
“This is either the worst planned assassination of all time, or it’s exactly what it looks like: a justified killing of an active shooter who would likely have shot more people if Ernesto Gonzalez had not stopped him,” Andrea Lee Luem said this week.