Washoe County, Nevada District Attorney Christopher J, Hicks continues to make a fool of himself as he desperately tries to preserve the murder conviction of Vago Motorcycle Club Member Ernesto Manuel “Romeo” Gonzalez.
Gonzalez (photo above) was convicted of murdering Hells Angels San Jose charter president Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew during the Street Vibrations motorcycle rally in September 2011. Pettigrew died during a brawl between members of the two clubs in John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada. The brawl was instigated by former Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick. Rudnick then became the state’s principle witness against Gonzalez and his former club. Gonzalez was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison in October 2013. He will be 83-years-old when he is first eligible for parole.
One the last day of 2015, the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Gonzalez had not been treated fairly and should be retried. In what appears top be an unprecedented move, Hicks (who made $175,514.33 in 2014, the last year for which figures are available, by the way) filed a “Petition For Rehearing” that asked the Supreme Court to reconsider their decision, hold another hearing and let Hicks use all his persuasive powers and erudition to try to get four of the seven high court justices to change their minds. It was a remarkably silly and mendacious petition. It should be part of a required case study in law school to illustrate how bad prosecutors can be. It begged for repudiation and last Thursday Gonzalez appeals attorney Richard F. Cornell filed his “Answer to Petition For Rehearing.”
“This case was vetted prior to December 31, 2015 about as thoroughly as a Nevada Supreme Court case gets vetted. We had a 68-page Opening Brief; a 31 page Answering Brief; and a 29-page Reply Brief. We had full oral argument before the Court en banc in early September 20015. And we had a published opinion, no. 99 on the year, agreed upon by all seven Justices, with a finding of four significant trial errors. Intuitively, it would seem that for the State to succeed on a petition such as this, it would have to convince at least four of the seven Justices that they were just plain wrong to concur with the Opinion; there were not four significant errors in this case, but only zero, or maybe one harmless error; and accordingly four Justices should change their minds within a matter of months.”
The law states: “the Court cannot consider points raised for the first time on a petition for rehearing. And that is so, even if the point is based on a United States Supreme Court case, if that case was in existence at the time of briefing and was not raised at that time.” “Similarly, matters presented in the briefs and oral arguments may not be reargued in the Petition for Rehearing. And, rehearings are not granted to review matters of no material consequence.” The law “requires the petitioner, when complaining of overlooked material issues of law, to cite to references to the pages in the brief where the petitioner raised the issue in question. And when complaining of the overlooking and misapprehension of a material fact in the record, the petitioner must cite to the appendix where the overlooked fact may be found.”
“In this case, Respondent has not followed any of these rules. It has not cited to pages in its brief where it raised the issues it now complains of. It has not cited to the record in terms of facts that the Court overlooked. Rather, it has raised issues either not heretofore raised or thoroughly vetted.”
“Even more remarkably, the State says nothing in its Petition regarding the first assignment of error, or ‘the trial court abused its discretion and violated Appellant’s Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to a fair trial and to due process of law, when it refused to address the jury’s request for supplemental instructions during deliberation that implicated the heart of the case and the elements of the charged offenses.’ The Court easily could have reversed on that error alone. As the Court indicated, the issue of conspiracy to murder went to the heart of the charged offenses. The gravity of the crime charged is extreme, and the character ofthat error is very substantial. Thus, even if the Court were to agree with the State on every other contention, it would not matter.”
“A petition for rehearing cannot be filed for the apparent purpose of delay, and with the improper result – if not the intent – of subjecting the appellant to further odium. This, we fear, is exactly what has happened here. Mr. Gonzalez remains a resident of the Department of Corrections, High Desert State Prison. He cannot return to the Washoe County Jail, an unconvicted felon, until this Court issues its remittitur. This Petition for Rehearing, which must be denied, subjects him to further public odium.”
“The video in this case indeed corroborates the fact of a homicide. But homicide committed in defense of others is a lawful homicide. And that is what the video shows. The undersigned has studied it. The video – which this Court has in its possession – shows the homicide victim, Pettigrew, a member of the Hells Angels, with his gun out (albeit not in ‘execution Style’) and kicking a Vago, Wiggins, in the head. It also shows Villagrana, the codefendant and also a Hells Angel, with his gun out after having shot Garcia, also a Vago, in Garcia’s stomach. And it shows all of this prior to Appellant discharging he fatal gun shots.”
“What turns this from a justifiable homicide, theoretically, into a murder is Rudnick’s highly controverted testimony of Pastor Palafox’s ‘green light’ direction in the Vagos International meeting a few hours prior. That testimony is not only uncorroborated, it is severely impeached. Yet, that severely impeached testimony is the linchpin of the State’s case. And unquestionably, per the charging document, Rudnick is an accomplice – just as the Court stated in (its)Opinion.This issue has been vetted to death. There simply is no lawful reason to revisit it.”
“At its heart, this case is quite simple: Rudnick stupidly and drunkenly started the fracas over a perceived personal slight to him and him alone; Pettigrew and Villagrana elevated the fracas with extreme violence; and before Wiggins could be stomped to death or Garcia could die, Appellant ended it. Nothing that happened in places such as Scotts Valley, Arizona, or Chino, California in any way could possibly be relevant to motive in this ease.”