Fog Of Sparks

November 29, 2011

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A few details are finally starting to emerge about the brawl between members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club on the casino floor just outside Trader Dick’s Lounge at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada on September 23.

Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, President of the San Jose charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club died as a result of the fight. Two Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were shot. Three men, San Jose Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, former Los Angeles Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick and San Jose Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana have all been indicted for conspiracy to commit second degree murder for their actions before and during the brawl.

Some Background

There was a round up of Vagos on October 6 in a media event called Operation Simple Green. The ATF, the motorcycle club police, although present during the October 6 raids has been entirely invisible since the September 23 shootout and there are two possible explanations for that. Either John Ciccone and other well known biker cops have completely abandoned their careers or the ATF is hiding to avoid public scrutiny of their investigative methods and procedures.

Shockingly, last week it was announced that “a 27-year veteran of the…Vagos motorcycle gang” had given 278 pages of testimony to a Nevada grand jury. The “Vago” testified “under the condition of confidentiality.” There has been no explanation of why any Vago would do this. Until now there has been no speculation about what he might have to gain other than a clean conscience. This witness piled most of the blame for this tragedy on Rudnick’s shoulders.

“Jabbers has a big mouth,” the witness said. “He’s always had a big mouth.”

People who “love” Rudnick agree and add that, “he just doesn’t like Hells Angels.” Since Rudnick was voted out bad from the Vagos soon after the shooting he makes a convenient scapegoat.

Rudnick is now very alone in his solitary cell at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. He will probably be extradited to Nevada within two weeks and spend Christmas in a jail cell there. He would make a convenient target for the ATF if the ATF had not so obviously gotten out of the business of investigating motorcycle clubs. Most witnesses agree that Rudnick almost singlehandedly started the fight in Sparks.

San Jose Angels And Vagos

Contrary to what has been previously reported here, the Vagos were not surprised to see Angels at the Nugget. The Angels had rooms there. They had a souvenir and tee shirt stand set up outside the hotel.

A few Vagos suspected that the ice chest that the Angels’ hang arounds hauled everywhere contained guns. The ice chest contained ice and beer. Most Vagos already assumed that.

The San Jose Angels were not there to fight anybody. Most of the San Jose Angels and San Jose Vagos knew each other and got along. Some of them had known each other their whole lives. There was no friction in San Jose as there had been a couple of years before in Santa Cruz. Despite a very widely circulated story to the contrary, what happened in Sparks had nothing to do Starbucks.

The Fight

What happened in Sparks was that Pettigrew and Rudnick just did not get along. The two proud men stared at each other like pit bulls. Senior Vagos calmed the situation. Moments before the fight began, Pettigrew walked over to Rudnick, said something like “How are you doing,” patted Rudnick on the back and simultaneously touched Rudnick’s patch.

Rudnick seethed over that and as Pettigrew limped away Rudnick rose, spread his arms wide and said something like, “So hey! Are we done here or what?”

Pettigrew, according to witnesses, turned, walked back and broke a beer bottle on the side Rudnick’s head. Rudnick punched Pettigrew and knocked him down. Pettigrew rose with a small caliber pistol in his hand and shot Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia.

Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, seeing two of his club brothers shot, pulled a .40 caliber pistol and shot Pettigrew in the back. Official documents state that Gonzalez shot Pettigrew four times. Pettigrew’s autopsy revealed he had been shot five times. There is a persistent, plausible but unverified rumor that a security guard fired the fifth shot and that shot might have been the fatal shot.

Almost simultaneously, one or more Vagos stabbed Pettigrew. Some of the stab wounds were apparently inflicted by the bottle with which Pettigrew had just hit Rudnick. And Cesar Villagrana, in the midst of this mayhem, pulled and began firing his .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. He fired at least ten shots at the ceiling and floor while shouting, “Get down! Get down!” There doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that Villagrana was actually trying to assault any Vagos in the crowded casino because he did not actually shoot any. A reasonable person might conclude that Villagrana was trying to put a stop to the fight before anyone else got hurt.

Simple Green

The Simple Green raids on October 6 were precipitated by the shootings in Sparks. One of the key items sought in those raids was the .40 caliber pistol Gonzalez used to allegedly kill Pettigrew. Those raids culminated an investigation officially led by a San Bernardino city police officer named Erick M. Bennett with the aid of the California Department of Justice but not the ATF. Sources describe Bennett as “a hard charger” and “clean.”

This state investigation utilized at least six wiretaps and two confidential informants. The Aging Rebel has been told that those informants were a Vago named Mario Ayala and a longtime friend of the Vagos named Jacob Canceli. A prime objective of the raids was to attempt to coerce Vagos into volunteering information about Pettigrew’s homicide. One of the homes raided that day was Jabbers Rudnick’s. Rudnick was detained, refused to cooperate and was then set free.

The Witness

The witness who testified before the Nevada grand jury might have been one of the Vagos who was detained that day. However the most likely candidate to have offered 278 pages of testimony was Jacob Cancelli. Cancelli was already cooperating with some police agency, but not the ATF according to the official narrative, during the long investigation of the Vagos that preceded the Sparks shootings.

The witness only testified before the grand jury because that was enough to return an indictment. He is unlikely to testify at trial, if there is a trial, because to do so would subject him to cross examination.

Canceli, who used to live in Mission Viejo, California, was accused of stock manipulation and defrauding investors of more than $700,000 in 2009. He pled guilty and his sentencing has been continued several times. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware on December 13. It is a federal case.



15 Responses to “Fog Of Sparks”

  1. Not Surprised Says:

    Fog is correct. the original AP story said this:

    “said the witness, who described himself as in the “higher echelon” of Vagos leadership.”

    What are the possibilities here? Apparently this guy testified he was in the “top echelon” of the Vagos. The above article names Canceli as a suspect but calls him a “long time friend.”

  2. rollinnorth Says:

    Thanks, Rebel. We know you will keep at it. What a long, strange trip…

  3. Gar Says:

    The truth is a far stranger story than the trolls and cheerleaders could ever come up with.

  4. Rebel Says:

    Dear just a question,

    Got you. Starbucks, got a lot more publicity and seemed intended to make the brawl in Sparks the butt of jokes. So I mentioned that.


  5. any time Says:

    Jabbers I feel for you u where there for me when these cowards tried this on me sorry I can’t be there for you I’ll find u and I’ll try to help ya and ur fam!!stand up man u are!!

  6. Doc Jones Says:

    Thank you Rebel for your great reporting!! Isn’t it interesting how different things are these days? The economy is in the tank, unemployment is to the roof and the clubs are a lot different than before, not to mention there are so many of them. I’ve noticed that on a particular club run where other clubs have been invited, they get along just fine and a good time is had by all. I don’t see any advantage for clubs to continue to hate each other. How many more deaths and prison terms will there be? What about the Confederation of Clubs? Maybe the Confederation can work out a solution or maybe they have been trying without success. As a non-member, I’ve kicked it with several clubs and have always been treated good. I’m not a hang around and have no desire to become a member of any club. Something has to change. There are too many good people getting locked up or killed.

    Doc Jones

  7. Rebel Says:

    Dear just a question,

    So, what you are telling me is that my sources on this story are not as good as Blair Tellers’ sources at the Gilroy Dispatch? Okay. Maybe. I have lots of good reasons to be humble as a journalist. Maybe I have FUBARed this story.

    I have heard conflicting accounts of what happened and I have not seen the video. The cops have seen the video and I have been told that one of the attorneys in the case has seen the video. I don’t know about the other attorney. I don’t believe Rudnick or any attorney who might represent him at his extradition hearing has seen the video. I don’t know if Blair Tellers has seen the video.

    Tellers’ indirect quote, “Sparks police Detective Rocky Triplett said Villagrana was charged with murder because he can be seen on casino security video drawing a gun and shooting at others,” may be an accurate quote but I believe it is a factually incorrect statement. I believe that Villagrana is charged with conspiracy to commit second degree murder because evidence exists that he was a participant in the fight. It is a pretty fine legal point. As I have said before, I think all three “co-conspirators” are charged under a law that was intended to prosecute “seconds” in a fatal duel just as if they had fired the deadly shot. Factually, I don’t think that is what happened in Sparks. I think the conspiracy charge is a tactic to force plea bargains and keep the case from actually going to trial. It may also be an attempt to prejudice the jury pool.

    As far as La Raza goes, I am a Yanqui so I wouldn’t know about any lines that Villagrana crossed when he patched with the Angels. If you say so, I will take your word for it.

    I don’t think Villagrana is going away for a long time. He might do some time but I don’t think he is in for a jolt unless Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were shot with bullets from Villagrana’s pistol. I haven’t talked to either Ramirez or Garcia. I wouldn’t say if I had but I haven’t. I haven’t seen any evidence that they were shot by Villagrana and I bet Blair Tellers hasn’t either. I have been told in blunt, certain terms that they were shot by bullets from Pettigrew’s gun. Again, I could be wrong.

    This is a big, top secret case. Nobody is supposed to know anything so it is tough to cover.

    Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting.


  8. not surprised Says:

    I would have to say by sheer force of logic, Rebel, your assessment has to be correct. The only person dead obviously was Jethro and even if Villagrana DID fire into a crowd, no other person could be considered “murdered.”

  9. rollinnorth Says:

    Well said, Rebel. I think you are spot on about the prosecution hoping to plea this away. This whole incident is a shame, turning into a sham. Stay strong.

  10. CHINGON Says:

    Great Article Rebel, like always the feds and the media working hand in hand to try and hype shit up.

  11. 10Gauge Says:

    WTF does a supporter, with no affiliation from FRISCO, know about how “cars” ride in the joint in Nevada….Unless of course he is a piggy working in VEGAS.

  12. sled tramp Says:

    This,Laughlin,Sparks…almost any similar situation from a “what happened” viewpoint boils down to this.
    Combat is very myoptic.The three feet around you is crystal clear,everything else is at best,a slow motion hazy blur.Between adreneline,fear,rage,noise,movement etc…it’s rare that any three people ten feet from each other have the same idea what went down ala Rashomon.Security cameras tend to be the only way anything gets sorted out (I would think).Anything else -when you’re deciding a man’s fate legally- would be a waste of time.

  13. Proud White Infidel Says:

    so Jake, you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? You rat, snitch, motherfucker, piece of shit.

  14. Lawyer'd Up Says:

    Jacob Canceli was to be sentenced in Delaware Federal Court on 12/13/2011. That date was continued from an original sentencing date in April of this year. The piece of shit plead to 2 counts. All you gotta do is Google his name with the word sentencing.
    His co defendant Marc Riviello was sentenced early this year to 8 months out of a possible 10 year exposure. The Feds likely worked a deal with the fat rat where he is placed on minimal probation. Hobble away cuz you can’t run you obese fucking thief.


  15. debbie Says:

    I have known Jake since 1980. For the 1st few years he was an okay guy. He became the God father of my youngest daughter. The as time went by hr became a prick. My husband and him were like brothers. Then in early 90s he screwed my husband out of $3million. He did it through a company called WIN Corporation. We had a very costly lesson. He would turn on anyone if it benefitted him. It wouldn’t matter who. He will screw anyone over especially his “friends”. He hurt us really bad and whenever we saw him after that, he acted like nothing happened.

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