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Trial begins in Hells Angels wedding chapel brawl

The assault trial for eight of 13 men, including members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, began Monday with video of them swarming and bludgeoning rival gang members during a 2008 brawl at a downtown wedding chapel.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens called the 60-second assault by the Sin City chapter of the Hells Angels an “unprovoked attack” on three members of the Mongols biker gang.

But veteran defense attorney Tom Pitaro said the defendants were acting in self-defense because the Mongols presence suggested danger.

The eight defendants are Dominic Orlando, Frederick O’Dell, Brandon Young, James Sexey, John Dawson, Jeffrey Murray, John Merchant, and Armando Porras. The defendants, some of who displayed Hells Angels logos , each face about a dozen felony and misdemeanor counts, including attempted murder, battery and conspiracy.

About 10 court marshals and Las Vegas police were posted in and outside of Judge Michael Villani’s courtroom during opening arguments.

Authorities say the melee at A Special Memory Wedding Chapel on Fourth Street and Gass Avenue on Dec. 20, 2008, injured at least six, including three members of the Mongols biker gang, two of whom were stabbed.

The brawl followed a wedding ceremony the Hells Angels were attending. As they were leaving, they saw at least three Mongols at the chapel for a different wedding. The 13 men attacked the Mongols, bludgeoning them with their fists, feet, bottles and trash cans.

Pitaro said the defendants “came for a wedding not a fight.” They “acted reasonably under the circumstances as they believed them to be,” Pitaro said, adding the Hells Angels perceived danger.

Pitaro noted that three months before the brawl, a Mongol killed the leader of the San Francisco Hells Angels chapter. Also before the brawl, Mongols indicted in Las Vegas on federal charges were found to have pictures of the local Hells Angels and had done background checks on them, Pitaro said.

“Whether they (the Mongols) were there for a wedding I don’t know and I don’t care,” Pitaro said. The Mongols are “considered a violent organization with a well-deserved reputation for violence.”

The five other defendants in the case will face similar charges in other trials .

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