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Man sentenced to life for assassination of Hells Angel leader

RENO — The gunman convicted of assassinating a Hells Angel leader in a 2011 shootout between rival gangs at a Nevada casino has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole until he’s 83 years old.

Ernesto Gonzalez, ex-president of the Vagos chapter in Nicaragua, was convicted in August of killing Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, considered one of the five top Hells Angels in the country when the melee broke out in September 2011 on a busy Sparks casino floor.

Prosecutors said Gonzalez carried out a hit on Pettigrew as part of an orchestrated assassination plot stemming from a long-running feud between the two rival gangs competing for territory primarily in the San Jose and Santa Cruz area.

Gonzalez, 55, of San Francisco, claimed he shot Pettigrew, 51, in self-defense to save the life of a fellow Vagos who was being kicked on the ground by Pettigrew and another Hells Angel who had just shot another Vagos.

Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gonzalez Thursday to life with the possibility of parole after 20 years on five felony counts including first-degree murder. But she added a gang enhancement to the penalty so if is paroled, he’ll have to serve a minimum of eight years of an additional 20-year sentence before could be freed.

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