Most serious charges involving Vagos motorcycle club will remain
A federal judge has ruled that the most serious charges of murder and conspiracy will not be thrown out against Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members.
A little more than two months after a major disruption in a federal trial against eight reputed members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, a federal judge has ruled that the most serious charges of murder and conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise will not be thrown out.
The motion to dismiss the charges surfaced after the government’s star witness — an ousted Vagos member who had been cooperating with authorities and agreed to testify against his former allies — admitted to repeatedly lying on the witness stand in September.
Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick had spent more than three days telling jurors that Vagos members had plotted to kill a rival biker in 2011 in Sparks.
“This was one of the worst witnesses ever put forth in a courtroom,” Jess Marchese, an attorney for one of the eight men on trial, said Thursday. He and attorneys for the remaining defendants had asked U.S. District Chief Judge Gloria Navarro to throw out the murder and racketeering charges due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
After more than four hours of arguments Thursday, Navarro agreed with the defense that the case was “a lot weaker than it was in the beginning” but said that she weighed the “totality of the circumstances” when making her decision.
The trial, which began in August and was expected to last through the end of the year, resumes Monday morning.
The charges stem from a racketeering indictment in 2017 against 23 Vagos members arrested in Nevada, Hawaii and California.
Vagos, the Spanish term for “lazy,” is a reference to a vagabond. According to the indictment, the biker gang was formed in San Bernardino, California, in the mid-1960s and has spread to at least seven countries. It is said to have 75 chapters in the United States, 54 of which are in Nevada and California, the states where authorities have said most of the criminal activity occurred.
The eight men on trial — Pastor Fausto Palafox, Albert Lopez, Albert Benjamin Perez, James Patrick Gillespie, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, Bradley Michael Campos, Cesar Vaquera Morales and Diego Chavez Garcia — also face one count of using a firearm to commit murder during and in retaliation to a crime of violence in addition to the murder and conspiracy charges.
The bikers are accused of a laundry list of violent crimes, including the 2011 fatal shooting of a rival Hells Angel gang member at the Sparks Nugget hotel-casino — a crime described, at the time, 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.
Thirteen more defendants are awaiting trial in a case that prosecutors allege involves Vagos and crimes in Nevada, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Oregon and Utah.
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