Hells Angels linked to fatal casino brawl move to have all charges dismissed - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Lawyers for seven members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang charged with three counts of murder and 49 other crimes related to an April 2002 brawl at Harrahs Casino in Laughlin, Nev., will argue Monday to have all charges against their clients dropped.

The hearing comes after a surprise ruling Thursday by the Nevada Supreme Court ordering a temporary stay in the trial until it listens to arguments from the accused outlaw bikers defense.

After months of rumors about a deal that would allow the bikers to serve less prison time and the state to avoid what could possibly become the most expensive trial in Nevada history, it appears that talks between both sides failed to yield a plea bargain.

Jury selection for the murder trial of Hells Angels Rodney Cox, Raymond Foakes, Maurice Eunice, James Hannigan, Dale Leedom, Sohn Regas and Calvin Schaefer is now scheduled to begin Thursday at the Clark County courthouse.

At issue in Mondays hearing is whether the grand jury that indicted the Hells Angels was properly instructed by prosecutors.

Attorneys for the bikers have argued the grand jury should have been instructed on the law of self defense.

Defense attorneys also allege that other irregularities in the grand jury proceedings "fatally infected the proceedings."

Before the Supreme Court ruling Thursday, seven Hells Angels were in court for pretrial motions and to plead not guilty of all charges against them.

The bikers are free on bail except Rodney Cox, who is in federal custody on other charges.

Dressed in outfits ranging from corporate casual to jeans to Hawaiian shirts, none of the defendants wore their biker vests or club patches to court Thursday — although Leedom donned a belt that read "Hells Angels."

Defense attorney David Chesnof asked the court Friday to allow the Hells Angels to wear their club vests and patches during the trial.

"We believe they have a First Amendment right to dress as they want," he said.

District Judge Michael Cherry avoided making a ruling on the matter, but expressed his desire to keep a sense of decorum in the courtroom.

"Its 120 degrees outside. I cant imagine someone wearing a coat," Cherry said. "I dont want to make this a circus."

Six Mongols are facing identical charges for their role in the riot and were originally set stand trial next to the Hells Angels, but a judge separated the two cases. The Mongols trial is scheduled to begin in February 2006.

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