Jury selection in 2011 Street Vibrations shooting underway

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 7/23/2013 12:38 am
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- In September of 2011, a deadly gunfight rocked Street Vibrations at John Ascuaga's Nugget after a fight between members of the Hells Angels and Vagos motorcycle clubs escalated into a shoot-out. 

Nearly two years after the shooting, one man will face a jury and another will face sentencing after making a last minute plea deal.

Ernesto Gonzalez, 53, will go to trial this week and juror selection is underway.

About 180 potential jurors were brought into court Monday, but selecting 12 could be a challenge.

With high-profile cases like the deadly Hells Angels-Vagos shootout at John Ascuaga's Nugget, finding an impartial jury can be nearly impossible.  

"We've got to find people who have not formed an opinion, have not been in some way influenced by the media coverage," said David Houston, Gonzalez's attorney.

Houston said the motorcycle club connection also poses a problem for some jurors.

"Someone may or may not be a member of a motorcycle club and, as a consequence, therefore I feel this way," he said.

Gonzalez is facing murder charges for the 2011 death of Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, who at the time was the president of Hells Angels' San Jose chapter.

Meanwhile Gonzalez was the leader of the rival Vagos' club in Nicaragua.

Houston said he hopes this week they will find twelve jurors, and once they're chosen he says video evidence will be critical for them.

"I think we'll get a jury who actually will appreciate what's on the video," Houston said. "If they do, they're going to acquit my client."

Regardless of their decision, Houston said they want to protect the privacy of the jurors in this case.  

"People can sit as a juror without the worry that their verdict is going to be scrutinized," he said.

So this jury will remain anonymous.

"In high-profile casese people do not want to be bothered after the fact," Houston said. "People do not want to have their identities necessarily given away."

Juror interviews are set for Tuesday and Gonzalez's trial is expected to begin on Wednesday.

Co-defendant Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana pled guilty Monday to to one count of battery and one count of challenge to fight. The other charges - including attempted murder - were dropped. Villagrana is facing up to 15 years in prison and is set to be sentenced on September 4.
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