Murder Charges are Dropped in Motorcycle Gang Fight Hell's Angel Cleared of Murder And Attempted Murder

Hell's Angel Cleared of Murder And Attempted Murder

GARDEN CITY, N.Y., Sept. 19 -- Prosecutors dropped murder charges today against a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, saying he may have been justified in firing the shot that killed a member of a rival club at a Hells Angels event in February. Members of the other group, the Pagan Outlaw Motorcycle Club, had crashed the event, many of them wielding bats and other weapons.

As part of a plea agreement, the Hells Angels member, Raymond G. Dwyer, Pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of third degree weapons possession in connection with the fracas, which erupted at a catering hall in Plainview where the Long Island Hells Angels chapter had been holding a motorcycle and tattoo exposition.

"We cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dwyer wasn't reasonably justified when he fired," Robert T. Hayden, a Nassau County assistant district attorney, told Judge Alan L. Honorof in Nassau County Court.

Later, Mr. Hayden explained that Mr. Dwyer could have convincingly claimed that he acted in self defense when he fired five or six shots, one of which killed a 51-year-old member of the Pagans, Robert Rutherford of Lancaster, Pa. More than 70 members of the club had arrived at the catering hall to confront the Hells Angels in the latest chapter in a longstanding rivalry, the authorities said.

"This group of about eight or nine Pagans was storming through the front door, swinging pipes and clubs at the Hells Angels," Mr. Hayden said. "It was in that situation that Mr. Dwyer pulled out the gun."

Mr. Dwyer, 39, appeared in court a dark gray suit adorned with a silver pin denoting his allegiance to the Hells Angels. His brown hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail and a pair of sunglasses rested on his head. He declined to comment on the case but handed a reporter a statement praising his lawyer and supporters. "God Bless the United States of America and God Bless the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club," he wrote.

His lawyer, William S. Petrillo, told the judge that "we could literally have had hundreds of supporters here on behalf of Mr. Dwyer," but that he had chosen not to create such a scene. Instead, there were only three supporters present.

Mr. Petrillo said that Mr. Dwyer, a tattoo artist, did not acknowledge firing any shots, only that "whoever fired the gun obviously did so in self defense."

"But for those shots, there can be no question that innocent people would have been seriously injured or killed," Mr. Petrillo said.

Judge Honorof agreed to sentence Mr. Dwyer to no more than one year in the Nassau County Jail, and to postpone that sentence until a separate case is settled. In that case, Mr. Dwyer and six other Hells Angels members were arrested in May; the authorities said they had beaten and robbed a former member.

The judge agreed today that if Mr. Dwyer is convicted, the sentences will run concurrently. Most of the 73 Pagans charged in the February attack have pleaded guilty to federal racketeering related charges. The authorities said the Pagans had driven to Long Island from as far as Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania to confront their rivals.

Biker's Murder Charge Is Dropped - Prosecutor concludes Hells Angels member acted in self defense By Chau Lam NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER

In an extraordinary move, the Nassau County district attorney's office yesterday dropped a murder charge against a member of the Long Island Hells Angels motorcycle club, concluding that he acted in self defense when he shot and killed a rival biker gang member during a melee in February.

For the past six months, Raymond G. Dwyer, 39, a tattoo artist from Oceanside, had been living under the threat of spending the remainder of his life behind bars. Dwyer was arrested on Feb. 23, the day of the shooting, and charged with one count of second degree murder in the death of Robert J. Rutherford, 51, of Lancaster, Pa.

"We can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Dwyer was not justified when he shot," Nassau Assistant District Attorney Robert Hayden told Court of Claims Justice Alan L. Honorof in Mineola.

Interviewed afterward, Hayden went further, saying investigation had shown the shooting was justified because Dwyer acted in self defense against the attackers. He said self defense includes acting in defense of others who are being attacked, as Dwyer's fellow club members were when he fired.

Hayden, who has been a prosecutor in Nassau for two decades, said this was only the second time he could remember his office ever dismissing a murder charge against a defendant.

On Feb. 23, the Hells Angels held a motorcycle and tattoo expo at the Vanderbilt a catering hall in Plainview, an event that was attended by about 1,000 people, Nassau police said. A little after 4 p.m., police said, more than 70 members of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Club, most of who were from out of state, drove to the Vanderbilt in vans. Some burst into the hall wielding bats and knives.

A witness, whom Hayden would not identify but said was not a member of the Hells Angels, told authorities that Dwyer fired five to six shots after the attack began. Four other Pagans were injured in the shooting, Hayden said.

Dwyer, who is free on a $250,000 bond, deferred all questions to his attorney, William S. Petrillo of Rockville Centre. "He's relieved with the outcome of the case," Petrillo said.

In addition to dismissing the murder charge against Dwyer, Hayden said his office would not pursue other potential charges stemming from the shooting, including four counts of attempted murder for injuries suffered by the other four Pagans.

Dwyer did not walk away a free man.

He pleaded guilty to one count of third degree criminal possession of a weapon, admitting that he carried a loaded gun on the day of the shooting. The crime, which is a felony, carries a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison. Honorof promised Dwyer the most jail time he'd get is up to a year in prison in the county jail.

In an interview, Hayden said the decision to drop the murder charge was based largely on what the unidentified witness, the only person who saw what happened.

According to Hayden, the witness was inside the Vanderbilt and stood near Dwyer when the brawl erupted. Eight to nine members of the Pagans stormed into the Vanderbilt wielding bats and knives, apparently looking for a fight. "The witness said Dwyer shot back only after the attack began," Hayden said.

Even though the authorities knew this immediately after the shooting, Hayden said the decision to charge Dwyer with murder was not a rush to judgment. "At the time we know Dwyer fired a gun and killed a man," Hayden said, adding that was sufficient to charge him with murder.

However, Dwyer's attorney said the matter could have been avoided. "Had the authorities listened closely to everything the witness said, perhaps they would have never charged Mr. Dwyer with murder in the first place," Petrillo said.

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