Kenneth Cory, the judge in the Special Memory Wedding Chapel stabbing case, agreed to hold a hearing to determine whether Nevada’s Gang Crime Enhancement statute should apply to members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
The judge’s ruling in the case will apply to the sentencing of four men named John Dawson, Dominic Orlando, Armando Porras and Brandon Young. The four men each pled guilty last summer to one count of battery resulting in substantial bodily harm. They each face up to five years in prison.
The hearing will feature the testimony of “outlaw motorcycle gang” investigators who will offer practiced testimony about “Characteristics of persons who are members of criminal gangs; Specific rivalries between criminal gangs; Common practices and operations of criminal gangs and the members of those gangs; Social customs and behavior of members of criminal gangs; Terminology used by members of criminal gangs; Codes of conduct, including criminal conduct, of particular criminal gangs; and The types of crimes that are likely to be committed by a particular criminal gang or by criminal gangs in general.”
Criminal “gang enhancements” are common and have never been Constitutionally challenged.
The relevant law is Nevada Revised Statute 193.168. It defines a “criminal gang” as “any combination of persons, organized formally or informally, so constructed that the organization will continue its operation even if individual members enter or leave the organization, and which: (a) Has a common name or identifying symbol; (b) Has particular conduct, status and customs indicative of it; and (c) Has as one of its common activities engaging in criminal activity punishable as a felony, other than the conduct which constitutes the primary offense.”
The law also states that “the court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of any person convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in affiliation with, a criminal gang if an additional term of imprisonment may be imposed for that primary offense pursuant to this section. The court may, upon the receipt of an appropriate motion, reduce or suspend the sentence imposed for the primary offense if it finds that the defendant rendered substantial assistance in the arrest or conviction of any other principals, accomplices, accessories or coconspirators to the crime, or of any other persons involved in the commission of a felony which was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in affiliation with, a criminal gang. The agency which arrested the defendant must be given an opportunity to support or oppose such a motion before it is granted or denied. If good cause is shown, the motion may be heard in camera.”
Special Memory Stabbings
The case began on December 20, 2008 when about a dozen guests at a Hells Angels wedding at the Special memory Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas attacked members of a Mongols wedding party. The brawl lasted about a minute and was captured on surveillance video. Two members of the Mongols wedding party were stabbed and two others suffered minor injuries. Prosecutors have described the fight as unprovoked. Tensions were particularly strained between the two clubs at the time and defense attorneys have argued that the Hells Angels acted in self defense.
Ten defendants have pled guilty. Former Hells Angel James Murray was sentenced to serve two to ten years in prison last October. Three defendants will be sentenced next month. The Hells Angels groom, Brad Goldsmith, and his father, Charles “Peewee” Goldsmith, are scheduled to be sentenced March 18. Neither of the Goldsmiths is currently of member of the motorcycle club.
Dawson, Orlando, Porras and Young will be sentenced February 28.
Two defendants, James Sexey and John Merchant, are scheduled for trial next April.