Ouellette guilty on 2 charges
July 21, 2012
The jury in the trial of Vagos member Patrick Ouellette split its verdict Friday night, finding him guilty of battery and assault with a deadly weapon while not reaching a decision or finding him not guilty of felony charges that carried the most time in prison.
Ouellette, 30, of Reno, faces up to 16 years in prison. He remained in custody on $50,000 bail, and sentencing is set for Sept. 4.
The jury was hung on the most serious charge of first-degree kidnapping – which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison – and on the possible gang enhancements on the guilty charges. The enhancements – which depend on criminal acts being committed in affiliation with or to benefit a gang – could have added up to 20 years per guilty charge.
Ouellette, a former advanced-level high school math teacher in Reno, was found not guilty of second-degree kidnapping, extortion and battery by strangulation.
“We’re pleased with the result,” District Attorney Neil A. Rombardo said Friday night. “I believe in the jury system, and I think this shows that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior in Carson City.”
The District Attorney’s Office charged that Ouellette, incensed at being disrespected, abducted Cody McChesney, a methamphetamine addict, at gunpoint in September 2011, beat him with a pistol before parading him around to other drug dealers.
During testimony, McChesney said that he felt blood spurt from his head when Ouellette hit him, and he showed the jury a thin scar. Crime scene analysts testified to finding McChesney’s blood in Ouellette’s car.
Jesse Kalter, Ouellette’s defense attorney, argued that the blood came from when his client punched McChesney in self-defense, with one of his rings cutting McChesney’s scalp. During his closing arguments Thursday, Kalter also questioned the backgrounds and integrity of the primary witnesses in the state’s case: McChesney and Heather Green, who was allegedly kidnapped with McChesney. Both have felony convictions stemming from passing bad checks. Former Vagos member Harlan Hendry, who testified to being an accomplice in an abduction and beating, admitted to being a meth user and received immunity in exchange for his testimony. He was never charged in the case.
Kalter said that he and his firm were pleased that Ouellette was not found guilty of most of the charges and thanked the jury for the two weeks they spent on the trial, including 12 hours deliberating on Friday.
“Mr. Ouellette is now at least eligible for probation and will not be spending the rest of his life in prison,” Kalter said Friday night. “And, as expected, the Vagos were not found to be a gang.”
The Department of Justice recognizes the Vagos as an outlaw motorcycle gang.
Ouellette’s girlfriend at the time, Chelsea Lavender, 22, of Reno, still faces two felony charges – assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment with a deadly weapon – related to the case.