Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner describes the kidnapping of a reported drug dealer by a Vagos motorcycle club member as one of losing control when the defendant was trying to assert it.
Defense attorney Jesse Kalter frames its as a blown-out-of-proportion confrontation between two men who could almost be described as friends - one, the reported drug dealer; and the other a former advanced-level high school math teacher.
In those two arguments, put before 15 jurors Monday in the first day of an expected two-week trial, lies the fate of Patrick William Ouellette, a 30-year-old Reno man who faces life in prison if convicted of the six felony charges he faces.
He stands accused of kidnapping Cody Scott McChesney and Heather Green in late August 201l and savagely beating McChesney over perceived slights to the outlaw motorcycle club and to a girlfriend of Ouellette's before parading him in front of other drug dealers and keeping him close at hand for several days.
Ouellette and a now-former Vagos member, Harlan Hendry, allegedly beat McChesney with their hands and feet. Ouellette allegedly also beat him in the head with a pistol, leaving a large gash, while Hendry testified at Oulette's preliminary hearing to lighting a blowtorch to scare McChesney after taking him to another club member's garage.
Ouellette allegedly forced Green to point the pistol at McChesney.
Hendry is not facing charges related to the case.
"This case is about control," Gardner said in his opening statements to the jury. "It's about Patrick Ouellette's appointment as president of (the Carson City chapter of) the Vagos and his attempt to assert control in that role. ... Ironically, it became a total loss of control."
Gardner recounted Hendry's testimony at the preliminary hearing - that during the beating of McChesney, Hendry started to worry that Ouellette would go too far.
"I didn't want to see him die," Hendry testified at the March preliminary hearing.
Kalter, by contrast, paints the dispute as one between two men who were friendly, if not friends. Kalter intimated that the victims came forward in the case only in hopes of avoiding prosecution on lesser crimes.
He calls McChesney and the reported girlfriend, Tara Schulz-Graham - though Kalter said she and Ouellette were just friends - known drug dealers whom Ouellette, a former math teacher in the Washoe County School District with no prior convictions but who happens to be in the Vagos, associated with.
Kalter noted the discrepancy between the accounts Schulz-Graham and McChesney gave about the origins of their dispute: Schulz-Graham said she fronted about $300 worth of methamphetamine to a friend of McChesney's and held McChesney responsible for the debt; McChesney said he loaned her about $200 but was told he had been "burned by the Vagos" when he tried to collect.
"Both their stories cannot be true," Kalter told the jury in his opening statements.
He said that his client tried to mediate the dispute after McChesney threatened Schulz-Graham, and that when that didn't work, Ouelette gave McChesney a ride in his car to pick up drugs and later picked him back up.
"My client took a liking to Mr. McChesney," Kalter said. "I don't know why."
And instead of a gunpoint-abduction that ended with a rage-induced beating, Kalter said, his client and McChesney started arguing about the supposed debt again. He said that McChesney punched Ouellette and that Ouellette responded. A ring on Ouelette's hand cut McChesney, said Kalter.
Instead of a garage-turned-jail, Kalter told jurors that Ouellette and Hendry took McChesney to the garage to get him cleaned up, and noted that they later hate hamburgers and drank beers together.
"After this kidnapping, Cody and Heather stay with my client," Kalter said. "They go to the rib feed with my client. They go to IHOP with my client."
Before finishing his statement, Gardner advised the jury "don't look for logic" in hearing this case. But, despite inconsistencies from different witnesses and victims that Gardner acknowledged were to come, "there will be no question that these crimes happened," he said.