Seven defendants have agreed to plea deals in the Special Memory Wedding Chapel brawl case. Jeffrey Murray pled guilty Wednesday to a charge of “Battery with substantial bodily harm with intent to promote the activities of a criminal gang.” According to Francis McCabe, the police reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Murray’s is the “first case in Nevada where a Hells Angel agreed to a plea deal that included a gang enhancement.”
This morning, lawyers for six other defendants told Judge Ken Cory their clients have agreed to plead guilty to battery. Five defendants, Dominic Orlando, Frederick O’Dell, James Sexey, John Dawson and Brandon Young will formally plead guilty next Friday, July 26th. Armando Porras will plead guilty August 2nd. Sexey’s plea deal also includes a gang enhancement.
All seven defendants were scheduled to stand trial on multiple charges on August 5th.
All seven were defendants in a three week trial last August that ended in a mistrial after prosecutors failed to disclose to the defense that an investigator in the case had testified for one of the victims in a child custody case.
Defense attorneys had asked for a dismissal of all the charges in the case because the mistrial came late in the trial and the defenders had already revealed their defense strategy. At least one defense attorney argued that a second trial would subject the defendants to double jeopardy.
All the defendants were charged in a 13-count indictment filed on July 9th, 2010 and all remain free on bail. The defense had argued that the defendants were acting in self-defense and had a legitimate reason to fear the Mongols because a Mongol named Christopher Ablett had killed a Hells Angel named Mark Guardado in a fight in San Francisco three and a half months before. Ablett was eventually found guilty of racketeering and murder and is serving consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in a federal penitentiary in West Virginia.
The charges result from a minute long assault at the Special Memory Wedding Chapel on December 21, 2008 when the chapel scheduled a Hells Angels wedding right after a Mongols wedding. The entire incident was video recorded.
James Nalder and Eugene Formica, the groom and his best man, were stabbed multiple times. A member of the party named Udell Wickham was punched. Jonathan Babcock was punched and hit with a wastebasket. The indictment alleges that Sexey threw a bottle at the bride, Amanda Valenzuela. The indictment also accuses all of the defendants of preventing James Michael Pope from entering the wedding chapel and attending Nalder’s wedding.
Prosecutors said the attack was unprovoked.
There are five remaining defendants and their cases will be adjudicated in two future trials.