The slow motion case that began with a brief and nasty brawl at the Special Memory Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas on December 20, 2008 slowed down even more last Friday.
The case has gone on for so long that the current Clark County District Attorney, Steve Wolfson, was a defense attorney when it began. He worked for a firm that represents some of the defendants and their attorneys are concerned he may have improper knowledge about their plans to contest the charges against their clients.
Wolfson has knowledge of the defenses in at least 80 ongoing cases in Las Vegas including an appeal by O.J. Simpson.
Last Friday, attorneys for some of the 13 defendants in the Wedding Chapel case asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor. Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens, who is actually prosecuting the defendants, told Judge Michael Villani that appointing a special prosecutor would slow down the case even more and waste taxpayer’s money.
Special Memory Knife Fight
The fight spontaneously erupted after a wedding chapel manager inadvertently scheduled a Mongols wedding right after a Hells Angels wedding. The two clubs sometimes do not get along.
Two Mongols, James Nalder and Eugene Formica who were the groom and the best man, were both stabbed. A July 2010 indictment alleges they were stabbed by defendants Jeffrey Murray and John Merchant.
The bride, Amanda Valenzuela, fled the chapel and one of the defendants threw a glass bottle at her. Udell Wickham, Jonathan Babcock and James Michael Pope were also punched and kicked. The brawl lasted about one minute.
The night of the brawl, chapel owner Joshua Gust, told Las Vegas television station KTNV that the knife fight was just bad luck. “There’s 100,000 weddings a year in Las Vegas and how many across the world. To have two groups that close together, I think that is very odd.”
The assault led to a raid on the Hells Angels clubhouse in November 2009. Thirteen members and friends of the Hells Angels Las Vegas charter were indicted on July 8, 2010.
Together the indicted men face thirteen felony counts. The charges are: Conspiracy to Commit Assault, Battery or Provoking Commission of Breach of the Peace; two counts of Attempted Murder With Use of a Deadly Weapon With Intent to Promote the Activities of a Criminal Gang; three counts of Battery With a Deadly Weapon With Substantial Bodily Harm With Intent to Promote the Activities of a Criminal Gang; Battery With Substantial Bodily Harm With Intent to Promote the Activities of a Criminal Gang; Assault With a Deadly Weapon With Intent to Promote the Activities of a Criminal Gang; Coercion With Force; and Coercion With Force With Use of a Deadly Weapon.