Friday, July 22, 2005 | 11:09 a.m.
An emergency stay granted by the Nevada Supreme Court, not an expected plea agreement, has put a hold on Monday's trial of the Hells Angels members accused in the fatal Laughlin River Run riot.
The state's high court has scheduled oral arguments for Monday afternoon in Carson City to address issues raised by Hells Angels defense attorneys regarding the legality of the grand jury indictment.
Members of the Hells Angels and the rival Mongols motorcycle gang are charged with murder and 51 other counts in the riot at the 2002 Laughlin River Run that resulted in the deaths of 50-year-old Robert Emmet Tumelty, 27-year-old Jeramie Dean Bell and 43-year-old Anthony Salvador Barrera.
The most significant of the issues the high court will consider is whether the prosecution was required to instruct the grand jury on the law of self-defense and whether the indictment wrongly charges a co-conspirator theory and single conspiracy theory among all of the defendants.
"There are specific due process procedures that everyone in the state of Nevada who is brought before the grand jury is entitled to, and it's no different for these defendants," defense attorney David Chesnoff said.
"We're pleased we are getting an opportunity to address these significant legal issues."
After hearing arguments on Monday, the Supreme Court could choose to dismiss the case, extend the stay, reject the defense's argument and order the trial to go forward or allow the trial to proceed and rule on the issues after the trial if the Hells Angels are convicted.
The stay came at the end of a day full of suggestions that the seven Hells Angels were prepared to enter a guilty plea to lesser charges.
After District Judge Michael Cherry received not-guilty pleas about 11:30 a.m., Cherry asked all of the defendants, attorneys and prosecutors to reconvene at 3 p.m.
Several sources familiar with the incident, who asked to remain anonymous, said during the roughly three-hour break a plea agreement with prosecutors was going to be ironed out for Hells Angels members Calvin Schaefer, 36, Sohn Regas, 38, Dale Leedom, 43, James Hannigan, 37, Raymond Foakes, 41, Maurice Eunice, 54, and Rodney Cox, 52.
Hells Angels member Frederick Dennis Donahue is also charged, but has not been located by authorities.
The deal would have meant prison terms of at least six years before being eligible for parole, the sources said. The sources would not elaborate on what the high end of the sentence would be.
Neither the prosecutors nor defense attorneys involved in the case would comment on whether negotiations had happened or were ongoing in the matter.
At the time, Chesnoff said he was "looking forward to trying the case and securing acquittals for all the defendants."
Prior to retiring for the afternoon, Cherry dealt with some housekeeping issues, one of which dealt with dress code.
Chesnoff said people in the audience attending the trial should be allowed to wear whatever they wished, except for shorts and sandals.
The defense attorney didn't say it directly, but was obviously arguing Hells Angels supporters attending the trial should be allowed to wear T-shirts, leather jackets and other clothing that might depict a gang insignia or colors.
Cherry said he would take the matter on a case-by-case basis, but added, "I don't want to make this a circus."
About jackets, the judge did say he found it hard to imagine anyone would wear one with it being "120 degrees outside."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have said the trial should run eight weeks, but most of the parties believe that to be a conservative figure considering the prosecution has 300 names on its witness list and the defense has over 100.
The trial could also serve as one of the most technologically advanced in Clark County history because prosecution and defense attorneys have developed elaborate video-based story boards compiled from more than 400 security tapes recovered from the riot scene at Harrah's.
Federal Public Defender Michael Powell has called the case justice sought through a "film festival."
Getting to the trial date has been no easy chore. For several weeks it was uncertain what judge would hear the case.
District Judge Donald Mosley at one time was the presiding judge for both the Hells Angels and Mongols, but due to a conflict of interest he first severed the case and then recused himself altogether.
The judge first recused himself from hearing the Mongols' case after Dominic Gentile substituted in on April 1 to defend Mongols member Alexander Alcantar. Gentile had represented Mosley in a defamation lawsuit over campaign ads.
Gentile also represented Mosley during proceedings before the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission.
District Judge Michelle Leavitt has since been assigned the case and has scheduled a Feb. 7 trial date for Mongols members Alexander Alcantar, Roger Pinney, Kenneth Dysart, Pedro Martinez Jr., Victor Ramirez, and Benjamin Leyva.
Mosley later recused himself from the Hells Angels case in response to Thomas Pitaro substituting in as a Hells Angels attorney on April 29. Pitaro represents Mosley in an ongoing custody battle between the judge and the mother of his 11-year-old son and represented the judge in 2002 during judicial misconduct hearings before the Judicial Discipline Commission.
Even though prosecutors waived any conflict, saying they didn't believe Pitaro's involvement would sway Mosley, Pitaro said Mosley should recuse himself "to avoid the appearance of impropriety."