Closing arguments began Tuesday in the murder trial of former Vallejo Hells Angels leader Charles Anthony Diaz, who is charged in the 17-year-old killings of a Fort Bragg family.
Diaz, 56, is charged with killing 5-year-old Dallas Grondalski, who was murdered with her family in October 1986 after moving to Mendocino County from Vallejo, where her father, Bill, had been a member of the motorcycle club.
Three co-defendants Mary Anne Hodgson, Robert Huffman and Sammie Lester are accused of covering up the murder.
One person, Gerald "Butch" Lester, was sentenced in 1997 to four life sentences for the murders of the Grondalski family Bill, 32, Patty, 34, Dallas, 5, and Jeremy Vandegriff, 17, Patty's son from a previous marriage. Diaz is accused of cutting the 5 year old's throat before Gerald Lester shot her.
At the start of the prosecution's closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Michael O'Reilley asked jurors to finish the job to rectify the injustice done to the Grondalski family with a guilty verdict for Gerald Lester's alleged accomplice.
"I hope you will hear in my voice the voices of Billy, Patty, Jeremy and Dallas. Frankly, there is no one else to speak for them, and they deserve to be heard," O'Reilley said.
The prosecutor called the case a very simple puzzle where all the evidence and testimony pointed to Gerald Lester and Diaz as the murderers.
"No matter how you assemble that puzzle, it always comes back to Butch and Chuck," O'Reilley said.
The argument then shifted to describe how the culture of the Hells Angels had fed the motive to hunt down Bill Grondalski, who allegedly had left the Vallejo chapter in bad standing, including owing money. He narrated how at the time of the murders, Diaz, who was vice president of the Vallejo chapter, had motive with chapter president Gerald Lester to uphold the chapter's reputation and existence.
"There's this rotten, idiotic stupid ethic of the Hells Angels that permeates everything about this case," O'Reilley said.
Calling the defense's case bogus, the prosecutor refuted the defense's case, stating that witnesses were not credible, contradicted each other and themselves, and admitted to lying. He also dismissed testimony by the defense's experts on the effects of drugs and alcohol which were heavily consumed by most witnesses at the time of the murders as "embarrassing" and "obviously biased."
"These guys are like traveling medicine men selling their wares," he said, recalling that they admitted to never talking to actual witnesses before making conclusions.
Attorneys for two of the co-defendants began the round of defense closing statements, which will continue today.
Huffman's attorney Bob Boyd told jurors to remember that the real conspirators, former Hells Angels members Mike Tankersley and Charlie Haas, had been relieved of any charges because of deals cut with the prosecution to testify.
"If (Huffman) had been thinking like Mr. Tankersley and Mr. Haas did, he would've cut a deal," Boyd said.
Huffman, a former Hells Angel, allegedly loaned his van to Haas, who used it to travel to Fort Bragg and burn the Grondalski house the day after the murders. But Boyd argued that Huffman never knew his intentions.
"Being a member of the Hells Angels is not enough to be a conspirator," Boyd said.
Boyd told jurors that in order to convict Huffman, they would have to believe the testimony of Haas, a convicted murderer with a violent history. Haas is currently serving a sentence of up to 30 years prison time for a federal conviction for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. While in Germany, he killed a disco manager and stabbed another.
"He is evil," Boyd said. "It is for you to determine his character for honesty."
Arguing for Sammie Lester, who is being charged under her maiden name Blethen, attorney Wes Hamilton, defended her innocence.
He reminded the jury that the rules of the Hells Angels historically leave women out of official business. Females can not be official members of the group and are barred from conducting or knowing about club business.
Hamilton added that Haas testified that his client had cried about not wanting to get involved.
"That is not an agreement (to conspiracy)," Hamilton said.
He refuted the believability of the prosecution's two key witnesses, Haas and Tankersley, the latter of which testified that Sammie Lester had accompanied him on a drive up to Fort Bragg to burn the house before turning around in Ukiah. Hamilton reminded jurors that Tankersley had admitted to having been heavily sedated by drugs, alcohol and lack of sleep from the affects of methamphetamine.
"These are the people they're basing their case on," Hamilton said.News is provided by the Outsider from various sources and posted on http://www.bikernews.net
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