42°F
weather icon Clear

Lengthy trial nears end for Vagos Motorcycle Club members

Updated February 3, 2020 - 5:33 pm

The end is near in a federal racketeering trial against eight members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club following months of testimony and an unforeseen disruption to a trial that initially was expected to wrap up late last year.

Monday marked the first day of closing arguments in the Las Vegas trial.

Lead federal prosector Daniel Schiess spent about three hours carefully laying out for jurors the most significant evidence presented during the trial, which began in late July, stating that the government had delivered beyond its burden of proof.

“While the defendants have been charged with conspiracy, the essence in what we’re proving is the agreement,” Schiess said as some jurors took notes. “The court has said we don’t have to prove that they actually engaged in interstate commerce — although we did. We don’t have to prove that they robbed or committed racketeering activities against certain people — although we did.”

On trial are Vagos members Pastor Fausto Palafox, Albert Lopez, Albert Benjamin Perez, James Patrick Gillespie, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, Bradley Michael Campos, Cesar Vaquera Morales and Diego Chavez Garcia.

The men previously pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder and using a firearm to commit murder during and in retaliation to a crime. The charges stem from a 2017 indictment accusing Vagos members of a slew of crimes dating to 2005 and spanning more than a decade, including the 2011 fatal shooting of a rival Hells Angels gang member in Sparks.

Under the racketeering charge, in addition to the 2011 killing, the defendants are accused of robbery, extortion, kidnapping and possession of narcotics with the intent to sell.

More than once in his closing arguments, Schiess also addressed the major trial disruption that was Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, an ousted Vagos member who had cooperated with authorities and agreed to testify against his former allies in exchange for immunity.

In September, the government’s star witness admitted to repeatedly lying on the witness stand after spending three days telling jurors that Vagos members had plotted the 2011 killing — a crime that has been described by authorities as part of a broader criminal conspiracy that involved a coordinated cover-up and threats of retaliation against gang members who cooperated with law enforcement.

Attorneys for the defendants tried and failed to have the murder and conspiracy charges thrown out, and the trial resumed in late November.

“Now what Mr. Rudnick did on the witness stand is absolutely reprehensible,” Schiess said. “You have the right to reject all of the testimony, or you can look to the testimony and see if there is any truth to some of it.”

He also suggested that the jurors “look for evidence that’s corroborating. Is there something that was said that is supported by other evidence that you could rely upon?”

Several times Monday, attorneys for the eight defendants questioned the accuracy of portions of Schiess’ closing arguments. Most were overruled by U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro, who said more than once Monday that it was the jurors’ responsibility to recall the accuracy of the facts.

Closing arguments in the case were expected to last a week.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
Police seeking help identifying armed robbery suspect - VIDEO
Police seeking help identifying armed robbery suspect. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fatal shooting at a Las Vegas Apartment
A black man in his 40's is dead after shooting Tuesday morning at a southwest Las Vegas Valley apartment.
Metro briefing on officer-involved shooting.
Las Vegas police released body camera footage of an officer-involved shooting Sunday in south Las Vegas. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police handcuff inattentive driver - VIDEO
A motorist who apparently ignored or did not see police vehicles struck a Las Vegas police vehicle while officers were working at the scene of a rollover crash on Washington Avenue near H Street. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Victim forced to testify about the day he was shot
Johnny Brooks sits on the witness stand in shackles, forced to testify about the day he was shot in an attack that left two people dead.
Video shows man stealing money gifts from Las Vegas wedding - VIDEO
A man sneaked into a wedding Saturday in the western Las Vegas Valley and stole most of the monetary gifts, according to the groom’s sister. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family of sucker punch victim speak at parole hearing - VIDEO
Family and friends of Luis Campos, the man who was killed by James Beach in Las Vegas with a single punch in 2017, speak out at a parole hearing for Beach on Feb. 10, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jury spares life of man who fatally shot liquor store clerk - VIDEO
A Las Vegas man must spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting a 24-year-old liquor store clerk during a robbery, jurors decided Friday. (Michael Quine, Nathan Asselin, James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police briefing about Excalibur fire
Las Vegas police say a sexual assault and hotel fire Wednesday morning at the Excalibur are connected. (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guilt lingered for coworker of of slain Lee's Liquor clerk
For more than three years since Matthew Christensen was slain in the back room of a southwest valley Lee’s Discount Liquor store, as the killer awaited trial, his coworker has been haunted by the memory of that night.
Teens burglarize Summerlin home
Dr. Paul Wilkes’ Summerlin home was robbed while his realtor gave a group a tour during an open house on Sunday. The crime was captured on his home surveillance system.
Fatal Las Vegas shooting, stabbing at Super Bowl party may be related - VIDEO
Las Vegas police are investigating a fatal shooting and a Super Bowl party stabbing that may be related in the east valley. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review Journal)
Prosecutors to rest in Lee’s Discount Liquor death penalty trial - VIDEO
Investigators quickly ruled out one suspect in the 2016 shooting of a Las Vegas liquor store clerk in part because the gunman walked with a limp, a homicide detective testified Friday. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man killed in hit-and-run in east Las Vegas, police say - VIDEO
Police are investigating after a body was found in the middle of an east Las Vegas intersection Wednesday night in an apparent hit-and-run crash. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death penalty trial Lee's Discount Liquor robbery and killing
Day one of the death penalty trial of Ray Charles “Ray Ray” Brown, 26, who is accused of being the gunman in the April 2016 robbery and killing of a Lee's Discount Liquor store clerk.
Barricade situation in central Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police and SWAT are at the scene of a barricade in a neighborhood near Washington Avenue and Valley View Boulevard, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect in mall shooting posts bail - VIDEO
Christopher Valenzuela-Olivas, ,18, charged with shooting three people at the Fashion Show mall, is expected to be released Monday, Jan. 27, after posting bail over the weekend. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) Vegas88s
Las Vegas jury convicts man in woman’s 2018 rape, murder
On Friday a Las Vegas jury convicted 52-year-old Charles Talley Jr. of first-degree murder and sexual assault in the rape and killing of Kelly Deanne Kazoon inside an east valley apartment.
Lockdown lifted at Desert Pines High School - VIDEO
Desert Pines High School’s lockdown has been lifted after an active shooter was near campus. No one has been reported injured on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Las Vegas. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Shooting at Las Vegas Fashion Show mall injures 3 - VIDEO
Three people were injured Tuesday night, Jan. 21, 2020, in a shooting at Fashion Show mall. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas resident reacts to dead baby found in dumpster - VIDEO
North Las Vegas resident Dagoberto Navarro talks about police finding a dead baby in a dumpster. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Elderly woman robbed in Fremont elevator - VIDEO
An elderly woman was robbed in an elevator on the 300 block of Fremont Street. Video courtesy of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police give details on officer-involved shooting - VIDEO
Las Vegas police identified the officer and show body cam video of the officer who discharged his weapon at a suspect accused of shooting his mother at a credit union, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Renee Summerout/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bail set at $300K for suspect in Las Vegas credit union shooting
William Cass Jackson who authorities said shot his mother three times before firing at police at a credit union in southwest Las Vegas was ordered held on $300,000 bail on Thursday.
Police update on shooting at Las Vegas credit union - VIDEO
Las Vegas police Capt. Nichole Splinter gives an update of officer-involved shooting at Navy Federal Credit Union, 6975 Spring Mountain Road, near Rainbow Boulevard, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police investigate officer-involved shooting - VIDEO
Las Vegas police brief the media on an officer-involved shooting in the 6900 block of Spring Mountain, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Witnesses discuss officer-involved shooting in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Witnesses discuss what they saw during a shooting involving Las Vegas police on Spring Mountain Road near Rainbow Boulevard, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Glen Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Store clerk shoots assailant after stabbing - VIDEO
North Las Vegas police say a 7-Eleven store clerk, who was stabbed by an attacker, pulled out a firearm and shot the individual in the store's parking lot early Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The car that Tupac was shot in is for sale - VIDEO
The vehicle that legendary rapper Tupac Shakur was riding in when he was shot after a boxing match in Las Vegas is up for auction. The black 1996 BMW 7 Series is listed by Celebrity Cars Las Vegas for $1.75 million. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nye County deputy dragged by Las Vegas man driving stolen vehicle - VIDEO
A Las Vegas man was taken into custody after dragging a Nye County officer while in a stolen vehicle, and then leading police in a pursuit. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Margaret Rudin's first interview after release from prison
Convicted killer Margaret Rudin maintains her innocence in her first interview after spending 20 years in a Las Vegas prison for the murder of her husband, Ron Rudin.
Bayzle Morgan Sentenced To 44 Years To Life - Video
A man with neo-Nazi tattoos on his face who pleaded guilty to killing a 75-year-old woman in her Las Vegas home in 2013 was sentenced Thursday to at least 44 years behind bars.
Body found in vacant lot in Las Vegas ruled a homicide - VIDEO
Las Vegas police homicide detectives investigate what is described as a suspicious death in northeast Las Vegas, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
$50K bail set for suspect in attack on girlfriend seen on video - Video
A judge set bail at $50,000 on Friday for a man accused of beating and kidnapping his girlfriend in an act caught on a home surveillance video. Darnell Rodgers, 23, was arrested early Thursday morning, hours after the Metropolitan Police Department released the video in which a woman was seen crying while she ran to a house screaming for help near Warm Springs Road and the 215 Beltway.
THE LATEST