RENO, NV - The jury that convicted Vagos member Ernesto Gonzalez Wednesday night will not get the opportunity to sentence him. Gonzalez waived his right to have the jury hand down a sentence. Instead, he says he wants the judge to do it. Two years ago, Gonzalez fatally shot Hells Angels San Jose Chapter President Jeffrey Pettigrew at the Nugget in Sparks during Street Vibrations.
With head in hands, and deep breaths, it was as if Ernesto Gonzalez already knew what was coming.
“We the jury find the defendant guilty,” said the clerk.
That word would be repeated a total of seven times to charges such as second- and first-degree murder, carrying a concealed weapon, and challenge to fight resulting in death.
On Thursday in Washoe District Court, Defense Attorney David Houston told Judge Connie Steinheimer his client had decided to waive his right to have the jury that convicted him sentence him as well.
Instead Houston said his client wanted the judge to sentence him.
Houston said outside the court while he respects the jury's decision, he respectfully disagrees, and believes jury instructions were too confusing for the 12 members.
“There is just no way in my humble opinion that there is sufficient proof that dispels reasonable doubt and that doesn't mean I don't respect the jury, I do,” said Houston.
Houston says his client didn't stand a chance after prosecutor Carl Hall successfully grouped Gonzalez in with the bad seeds of the Vagos--those who threw punches and bottles and discharged guns on the casino floor of the Nugget in Sparks on September 23, 2011.
Along with the 7 counts, the jury was also supposed to determine if the Vagos qualified as a gang.
They checked that box off too, which Hall says will have a big impact with the courts and law enforcement in the months and years to come.
“It does help law enforcement because that's a finding by a jury that they are an outlaw criminal gang and consequently that does have an impact,” said Hall.
Hall says the jury's verdict sends a message to gangs like the Vagos that this community will not tolerate their public displays of vengeance.
Gonzalez' sentencing is scheduled for October third.
Before sentencing, both prosecution and defense in this case say they will present witnesses with impact statements.