The Washoe County, Nevada District Attorney inflated the criminal charges against Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez yesterday. Gonzalez is a member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club. He had been charged with second degree murder for shooting San Jose Hells Angel Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew in the back four times with a .40 caliber pistol. The shooting was incidental to a confrontation between Vagos and Hells Angels at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks last September 23.
Gonzalez was charged yesterday with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors allege that Pettigrew’s murder was premeditated and that Gonzalez was lying in wait to accomplish the crime. Gonzalez pled “definitely not guilty.”
Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana is also charged with second degree murder as a result of the Sparks brawl. Gonzalez and Villagrana are scheduled to be tried together. The trial is scheduled to begin Octer 29.
The new charges are based on statements made by a former Vago named Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick. Rudnick is widely acknowledged to have started the brawl in Sparks and of personally instigating a confrontation with Pettigrew. Rudnick was expelled from the Vagos Motorcycle Club two days after the fight in Sparks.
Rudnick pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in March. He signed a plea and sentencing agreement in which he agreed to testify about the murder in court. Rudnick is now free on personal recognizance.
The revised charges against Gonzalez are based on information provided by Rudnick and five confidential sources. One of those confidential sources is probably Jacob Cancelli who is known to be cooperating with federal prosecutors. Another source may be Alfred Azevedo. Azevedo was a paid confidential informant who attempted to join both the Hells Angels and the Vagos in Arizona.
The new complaint against Gonzalez reads like it belongs in a federal racketeering indictment. The Vago defendant is now alleged to have conspired with Gary Rudnick and other members of the Vagos with the “specific intent a killing occur.” The complaint – or RICO predicate – alleges that Pettigrew was murdered for the benefit of and at the direction of the Vagos in order to “promote and further assist Vagos.”
In his plea deal Rudnick stated, “I did issue and /or accept a challenge to fight Jeffrey Pettigrew and other Hells Angels. I did provoke a physical altercation with the intent that Hells Angels suffer death or substantial bodily harm.”
The complaint against Gonzalez also cites a confidential informant who alleges that the Vagos planned in advance to attack the Hells Angels that night.