Friday, Jan. 14, 2005 | 8:47 a.m.
The conspiracy charges against members of rival motorcycle gangs who allegedly participated in the deadly riot at the 2002 Laughlin River Run will stand, District judge Donald Mosley ruled on Thursday.
Mosely said the "totality" of the evidence presented to the grand jury provided enough basis for it to indict members of both the Mongols and Hells Angels for conspiring to fight at Harrah's Laughlin.
The fight between the gangs resulted in the deaths of 50-year-old Robert Emmet Tumelty, 27-year-old Jeramie Dean Bell and 43-year-old Anthony Salvador Barrera.
In addition to murder charges filed in those deaths, each of the 14 defendants scheduled for trial on April 5 faces two conspiracy charges. They all face counts of conspiracy to commit battery as well as conspiracy to commit a challenge to fight. Both charges allege they acted with the intent to promote the activities of a criminal gang.
Lawyers representing the motorcycle gang members argued that the charges of conspiracy against the bikers should be dismissed because, technically, the charges allege that rival gangs conspired together to hurt members of their own gangs.
Essentially for the conspiracy charges to be valid, a member of the Hells Angels would have had to conspire with members of the Mongols to harm a member of the Hells Angels or vice versa, the defense lawyers argued.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Ownes argued previously "unintentional consequences" fall under the scope of conspiracy charges. He said it was similar to the state's felony murder rule. Under the felony murder rule, if a murder is committed during the ommission of a felony, whether intentional or not, the individual committing the felony is held accountable for the murder.
Mosley also ruled "it was not a failure on the part of prosecutors" that the grand jury was not given an instruction regarding self-defense.
Several of the defense attorneys argued if the jury was given an instruction regarding self-defense, many if not all of the charges facing their clients would have been dropped.
Attorney David Chesnoff said the case should be dismissed to allow the district attorney's office the opportunity to bring the case back before another grand jury with an instruction explaining self-defense.
Chesnoff said it does a "disservice to the justice system" when lay people aren't instructed as to the law.
Mosley rejected that argument, saying there was no "requirement in the spirit or letter of the law" for prosecutors to provide such an instruction.
To close out the hearing, Mosley opened the discussion on whether the case should be severed into separate trials for the Mongols and Hells Angels defendants.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Kephart said such a move would cause what is already expected to be a four- to six-month trial to become two trials of the same length.
Chesnoff said it has been established "that when you have mutually antagonistic defenses you sever." He said there are so many nuances in the case especially because of the differences between "what seven lawyers think and another seven think."
He said the motion to sever could be "the last thing" any of the attorneys involved in the case agree on.
The defense attorney said if the case isn't severed, it "might be the longest trial in Nevada history." A comment that prompted Mosley to say he already thought it would be.
Mosley said he would issue a decision on severance by the next pretrial hearing in the case, which is set for Feb. 18. Currently the trial for all 14 defendants is slated to begin on April 18.
If the cases were to be severed, the question of which gang would be tried first could be a continuous issue as attorneys for defendants belonging to each group raised issues, which will be addressed further at the next hearing.
Mosley also expressed concern over the whereabouts of one defendant and the need to find a lawyer to represent another.
Owens said Hells Angels member Frederick Dennis Donahue was still at large. He said police continue to look for Donahue.
Mosley urged the defense attorneys involved in the case to notify him if they knew of any lawyers interested in representing Hells Angels member Dale Leedom, who currently has no lawyer.
Mosley denied a motion brought by attorney Lisa Rasmussen to allow defense counsel to carry weapons during the trial.
The judge joked as he rejected the motion saying "if anyone is going to carry firearms it's me and my staff."
A Clark County grand jury returned a 73-count indictment April 19 against seven members of the Hells Angels and two members of the Mongols.
The original indictment alleges that Hells Angels members Leedom, Calvin Schaefer, Sohn Regas, James Hannigan, Raymond Foakes, Maurice Eunice, Rodney Cox, along with Mongols Alexander Alcantar and Roger Pinney, entered Harrah's in Laughlin with the intention of causing or provoking a fight "to assist the activities of the criminal gang."
Hells Angels members Donahue and Mongols members Kenneth Dysart, Pedro Martinez Jr., Victor Ramirez, and Benjamin Leyva were indicted in June, bringing the total number of defendants in the case to 14.