Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, Ernesto Gonzalez and Cesar Villagrana appeared together in Washoe District Court Friday amid tight security. Each has been arraigned on various charges in the death of Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, president of the San Jose, Calif.-chapter of the Hells Angels.
Rudnick, 45, vice president of the Los Angeles chapter of the rival Vagos gang, pled not guilty to charges that he instigated the fight that led to the shooting at Trader Dick’s bar inside the Nugget on Sept. 23.
Gonzalez, 53, a Vagos member from the San Francisco Bay area, pled not guilty to charges that he actually fired the fatal shots. He allegedly shot Pettigrew four times in the back.
According to police reports, Gonzalez was observed on surveillance footage carrying a handgun into the dance floor area of the bar. Pettigrew, after being observed punching and pistol-whipping Vagos members, is then seen falling to the ground, at which time Gonzalez is observed running from the scene while stuffing a gun into his waistband. Seven .40-caliber casings were recovered from the crime scene.
Villagrana, 36, a Hells Angels member from California, was freed on $300,000 bail last month after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder charges. His attorneys are expected to request that he be tried separately.
Rudnick and Gonzalez are currently being held in the Washoe County Jail without bail, though a Dec. 21 bail hearing has been set for Rudnick.
According to the Associated Press, a longtime Vagos leader testifying on condition of confidentiality told the grand jury that Rudnick was a loudmouthed, loose-cannon who was drunk the night of the shooting and kept trying to provoke Pettigrew into fighting.
“Jabbers has a big mouth. He’s always had a big mouth,” the witness said, adding that Pettigrew finally had enough and punched Rudnick in the face, touching off a series of fights that led to the gunfire.
Judge Connie Steinheimer said the trial could last up to three weeks. District Attorney Karl Hall will prosecute the case.