RENO, NV - A defendant initially charged with second-degree murder in the Nugget shooting nearly two years ago has pleaded guilty. Cesar Villegrana appeared in District Court Monday morning just before jury selection was to begin in his trail. He entered guilty pleas to two lesser charges he was facing, and with the plea bargain, the murder charge was dropped.
By entering the two guilty pleas, Villagrana will no longer await a jury's verdict. Looking more relaxed, the Hells Angel member will also no longer be sitting next to gang rival Ernesto Gonzalez, a member of the Vagos.
The case stems from a shooting at John Ascuaga's Nugget on September 23, 2011.
Investigators say Hells Angel San Jose Chapter President Jeffrey Pettigrew was fatally shot five times, allegedly by Vago member Ernesto Gonzalez.
According to police, two other motorcycle members were involved in this case.
They say Gary Rudnick, a Vago member, urged Pettigrew to fight.
Cesar Villagrana, a friend of Pettigrew's, and another Hells Angels member are shown on surveillance cameras, shooting into a crowd of innocent bystanders inside the casino.
Much has changed since then, Rudnick pleaded out to one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and will testify in the case.
And with Villagrano's plea bargain Monday morning, Ernesto Gonzalez is the lone defendant to go to trail in this case.
Gonzales faces, among other things, an open murder with a deadly weapon charge.
While rival gang members won't be sitting next to each other as defendants, other rival gang members may be sitting in the gallery, which is why there is heightened security at the courthouse during proceedings. With the trial down to one defendant, the case should get underway with opening arguments Wednesday morning.