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Witness says he lied about 2011 Vegas casino Hells Angels gang killing

April 28, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Witness says he lied about 2011 Vegas casino Hells Angels gang killing

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The main witness who assisted with convicting the gunman accused of murdering a high-ranking Hells Angels’ boss at a casino in Nevada in 2011 said he lied when he testified that the shooting was an assassination plan arranged by a rival gang, The Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors believe that the recantation is a lie, but it may make it harder to get another conviction against Ernesto Gonzalez, a former Vagos gang member. He’s set to be tried again in August after the Nevada Supreme Court threw out the guilty verdict because of improper jury instructions.

Legal scholars indicate that it’s hard to predict jurors’ response to withdrawn testimony, but it raises issues about the claims of suspects who make deals with prosecutors in exchange for less harsh sentences, as Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick did.

Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick said he lied when he testified that the shooting was an assassination plan arranged by a rival biker gang

Rudnick’s testimony helped put Gonzalez behind bars for life for carrying out a hit on Jeffrey Pettigrew during a dispute in a crowded casino that sent gamblers running for cover under blackjack tables.

Gonzalez maintains that there was no plan. He said he began shooting because Pettigrew and another Hells Angel were kicking his partner and he was worried they would kill him.

The only witness who claimed knowledge of the plot was Rudnick, an ex-Vagos vice president who provoked Pettigrew into fighting. He was released from prison in 2016 after he served two years for conspiring to commit murder.

Jeff “Jethro” Pettigrew, the president of the city’s Hells Angels chapter. Pettigrew was shot to death in a gun battle at a casino in Sparks, Nevada.

Rudnick told that court that the Vagos International President provided Gonzalez with the go-ahead for the assassination as the gangs fought over turf in San Jose, where Pettigrew served as the Hells Angels chapter president.

In new court records, Rudnick asserts that he made up the story under pressure from prosecutors to get a plea agreement that he thought would keep him out of jail and land him in the witness protection program.

In a handwritten note filled with misspellings, Rudnick said: “there was no conspiracy” to murder Pettigrew.

Ernesto Gonzalez is led from the district court in Reno, Nev., after pleading guilty in the shooting death of Hells Angels member Jeffrey Pettigrew. Gary Rudnick 

Rudnick said that the prosecutor, Karl Hall, who now serves as Reno’s city attorney, didn’t believe his original story.

“He told me what he wanted me to change to lie for him,” Rudnick stated, suggesting he had no choice but to listen. “I was looking at 25 years in prison.”

Sean O’Brien, a law professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, said plea deals with co-conspirators raise issues about testimony that’s later recanted.

“There are incentives,” O’Brien said of deals providing leniency. “It is a bought-and-paid-for testimony.”

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