Cesar Villagrana, a San Jose Hells Angel, pled guilty to one count of “battery with a deadly weapon” and a single count of “challenge to fight with a deadly weapon” this morning in Reno. He had faced a murder charge. He will be sentenced by Washoe District Court Judge Connie Steinheimer on September 4th. The penalty for his first charge is two to ten years imprisonment. The challenge to fight charge carries a penalty of one to two years.
Villagrana was one of three men charged with murder following a deadly fight on the casino floor just outside Trader Dick’s Lounge at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada on September 23rd, 2011. The other men were Vago Motorcycle Club member Ernesto Gonzalez and former Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick.
Villagrana and Gonzalez were supposed to be co-defendants in a trial starting today. Rudnick pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors last year.
Rudnick instigated the fight between the two clubs by baiting Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, San Jose Angels charter president. He was voted out of the Vagos in bad standing after the fight. Gonzalez will now stand trial alone. Jury selection began this afternoon. Both Rudnick and former Vago Jacob Cancelli are expected to testify against Gonzalez.
The deal may diminish Gonzalez’ possibilities for appeal if he is found guilty. A legal scholar, speaking to The Aging Rebel on conditions of anonymity said, “The prosecution’s strategy of trying mutual combatants as co-conspirators is probably unconstitutional.”
Karl Hall, a prosecutor in the case told Scott Sonner of The Associated Press, “I wouldn’t have done it (the plea deal) if I didn’t think it was fair.”
Gonzalez’s attorney, David Houston, told the AP “We’re not pleading, because our client is innocent.”
Attorneys for both Villagrana and Gonzalez were expected to tell jurors the men acted in self-defense. A source with a general knowledge of Gonzalez’s case said, “Gonzalez acted to defend others from deadly force. He should walk on these charges. He did nothing wrong. If he gets the same justice George Zimmerman did in Florida, he will end up a free man.”
You can view the press pool video of the pleading below.