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
By Elissa Gootman NEW YORK TIMES STAFF WRITER

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.

Our Team Leaders Among the Criminal Defense Bar

Achievements

Honors & Awards
  • President New York Criminal Bar Association 2015-Present.
  • Listed in 2016 Super Lawyers, New York Metro.
  • Listed in 2015 Super Lawyers, New York Metro.
  • Listed in 2014 National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Layers.
  • Rated by Avvo 10.0 Superb.
  • Avvo Clients’ Choice 2014-Present, Criminal Defense.
  • Appointed on Homicide Panel, Appellate Division, First Department, in March 2012-Present.
  • Appointed on Criminal Justice Act Panel, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 2016.
  • Awarded Citation of Honor in September 2011 by New York State Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya for exemplary service through the practice of criminal defense.
  • Recognized in April 2011 by the Board of Directors of New York’s Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
  • Received Proclamation of Honor in 2010 by New York State Senator Jose Peralta for accomplishments in the profession of criminal defense and extraordinary contributions to the community.
  • Recognized in VerdictSearch’s Top New York Verdicts of 2010 for $1.9 million verdict following a jury trial in Queens Supreme Court.
  • Received Recognition of Honor in 2009 by New York’s Comite Fiestas Patrias Mexican-American organization for humanitarian actions and invaluable service in the field of criminal defense.
  • Awarded Citation of Honor in 2009, by President of the Borough of Queens, Hon. Helen M. Marshall, for outstanding leadership and work in the area of criminal defense.

 

COURTS OF ADMISSIONS
  • Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of New York
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • United States District Court for the District of Colorado



Testimonials

"As District Attorney of Nassau County for 31 years and a former federal prosecutor, I have encountered some of the best criminal defense attorney’s in New York State. The hallmark of a truly phenomenal criminal lawyer is the ability to be both a great trial lawyer and a strong negotiator, while maintaining credibility at all times. William Petrillo possesses these skills. He has earned a stellar reputation within the legal community as an outstanding, gifted trial attorney. Always a gentleman, honest and ethical, Mr. Petrillo is a fierce, persuasive litigator and a tough, fair negotiator. I would unequivocally recommend him to anyone in need of a criminal lawyer."

Honorable Denis Dillon - Former District Attorney, Nassau County and Former Federal Prosecutor

"If I or a loved one ever need the services of a criminal defense attorney, Bill Petrillo is the one I would count on for representation. No higher praise can be given to a fellow lawyer. Mr. Petrillo not only possesses excellent trial skills, but is also skillful at negotiating favorable dispositions for his clients. He treats everyone he encounters with respect and has earned the respect of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel. He is passionately devoted to his clients and constantly thinking of ways to benefit them. Finally, he is scrupulously honest and ethical while fighting tirelessly for the people he represents."

Fred B. Klein - Retired, Chief of Homicide, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office - Retired Attorney General

"Both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, Bill Petrillo tried many cases in front of me in Nassau County Court. He won just about every one of those trials. When an attorney constantly wins trials it means that jurors respect him. When jurors respect an attorney they will listen to him, will follow his line of reasoning and give serious consideration to his various arguments. To get jurors to that point the attorney must project honesty, must balance fairness with understanding for all involved, have an absolute knowledge of the facts of the case and the applicable law, and he must be able to create an atmosphere of mutual respect with the judge. Bill Petrillo possesses all of these qualities."

Honorable Donald DeRiggi - Retired, Nassau County Court Judge

"As a prosecuting attorney for almost 30 years, I have observed many trial lawyers. Of the few that I judged to be excellent, only one was uniquely skilled in all of the qualities that contribute to tremendous success in the courtroom. His name is Bill Petrillo. A brilliant strategist who leaves no stone unturned, Bill has a rare natural gift for trying cases. He is a passionate lawyer and has won cases that were considered unwinnable."

James Watson - Retired Deputy Bureau Chief, Nassau County District Attorney's Office and Former Federal Prosecutor

"Bill Petrillo is a giant in the criminal defense community. Time and again I have observed him fearlessly battle the government, negotiate extraordinary plea deals, obtain the dismissal of indictments or acquittals after trial. He regards his clients as family and tries to protect them accordingly."

Kevin T. Kearon, Esq. - Past President, Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County

"As a judge, I presided over felony cases for ten years. Bill Petrillo appeared before me on many occasions. He is as tenacious and talented an attorney as I ever encountered. Bill is an extraordinary advocate and I would strongly recommend him."

Honorable Victor M. Ort - Retired Nassau County Judge

"Bill Petrillo is a relentless super-talent with incredible drive, focus and work ethic. He has a razor sharp mind and is lightning quick on his feet. Bill is as powerful, energetic and persuasive in the courtroom as any lawyer I have ever seen."

Michael S. Lamonsoff, Esq. - Board of Directors New York State Trial Lawyers Association and Member of New York State Ethics Committee

"Mr. Petrillo is one of the most talented, hard working, compassionate, ethical and moral individuals I have ever known."

J.H.

" Mr. Petrillo is a miracle worker. When faced with a situation that others told me was all but impossible to be resolved in a tolerable manner, Mr. Petrillo did the impossible. Throughout the whole process he was knowledgeable, honest, available, and incredibly professional. Having first gone to other highly recommended lawyers I was able to get a sense of different types of attorneys. Not only was the outcome something that the other attorneys couldn't dream of, but Mr. Petrillo's personality and general demeanor was miles beyond the others. In an incredibly trying time he was calming. But while he was pleasant to deal with personally, he also is incredibly fierce in the courtroom. You get the sense that what he does is not just his job, but his passion. There is nobody I would trust more."

Z.K.

"I was under state and federal investigation for multiple potential charges in a year long investigation. The first lawyer I consulted with suggested we go to the US Attorneys office, cooperate and agree to a quick plea, despite my telling him I had done nothing wrong. Shortly after that consultation I was given Mr. Petrillo's name from a friend who knew a criminal court Judge. It became obvious to me during my first meeting with Bill that his level of knowledge and expertise was far superior than my original lawyer. He had a completely different analysis of my case and the best course of action to take. Ten months later, without me ever speaking to law enforcement, eleven people were arrested. I was never prosecuted and will be forever grateful to William Petrillo."

M.O.

"Not only are you a phenomenal and brilliant lawyer, you are an amazing human being and we are grateful to know you on any level. Thank you for everything."

Z.K.

" Mr. Petrillo is a miracle worker. When faced with a situation that others told me was all but impossible to be resolved in a tolerable manner, Mr. Petrillo did the impossible. Throughout the whole process he was knowledgeable, honest, available, and incredibly professional. Having first gone to other highly recommended lawyers I was able to get a sense of different types of attorneys. Not only was the outcome something that the other attorneys couldn't dream of, but Mr. Petrillo's personality and general demeanor was miles beyond the others. In an incredibly trying time he was calming. But while he was pleasant to deal with personally, he also is incredibly fierce in the courtroom. You get the sense that what he does is not just his job, but his passion. There is nobody I would trust more."

S.E.

"Bill and his staff treated me with kindness and respect and the utmost professionalism which is very important when you are facing the uneasiness of criminal prosecution. Besides having a very impressive track record in the courtroom, it was apparent to me and my family that Bill is highly respected and well-liked by judges, lawyers and prosecuting attorneys. He was able to negotiate a great outcome in my case. If I opted to go to trial, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that Bill was the man I wanted by my side. For a man who makes no promises, he sure delivers."

R.M.

"I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with William Petrillo when I was facing multiple felony charges. From our first meeting I felt Bill's passion for under taking whatever was necessary to insure that I receive proper representation. He is endowed with an extraordinary talent for understanding the client's fears and concerns while offering honest and straight forward information and advice. Mr. Petrillo is one of the hardest working people I ever met. He kept me fully informed as to the process and progress of my case. Finally, as opposed to many other attorneys who are not court experienced; Mr. Petrillo shined in court. His presentation of the details of my case held the courtroom captive. Not only did everyone come to understand the complications of the situation, but, more importantly, the resolution of the case reflected the hard work, diligence and devotion to his client. It is my great pleasure to recommend Mr. William S. Petrillo."

A.M.

"About a year and a half ago I ran into some legal trouble and needed legal representation. My wife's cousin is a corporate lawyer and she referred us to William Petrillo. Having never been on the wrong side of the law, I didn't know what to expect. I also didn't know if this would affect my employment status. I had a laundry list of concerns and questions. After my first consultation with Bill, he immediately struck me as personable, professional, confident and honest. He told me what all of my options were and also gave me his personal opinion. My best interest was always his primary concern. He always reiterated that no matter what legal avenue I chose to go down, he was in my corner 100%. I felt extremely confident that I had the chosen the right guy. And I definitely did. From the first court appearance right up to my last, Bill and his associate, Karen Bobley, always put their best foot forward. They never wanted to settle for anything less than what I had hoped for. At the end of my court proceedings, I did get the outcome I was looking for, and my friends and co-workers could not believe that it was possible, under the circumstances. I owe it all to Bill and his team. Whenever I needed legal documentation, for work or other purposes, Jennifer, Bill's office manager, was always on top of things. Jennifer would call me the day before any court appearances, as a reminder, and also give me the heads up on what would happen at that appearance. Whenever I had questions, Jennifer usually had an answer and if she didn't, Bill would, personally, return my call by the end of the day. Words do not truly describe the high level of service I received. Bill and company made a very stressful situation very manageable and I am forever grateful. Not only is Bill a great lawyer, but he's a wonderful person. And that's what separates him from the rest. So,if you ever find yourself in a legal bind, don't take chances or try to cut corners. Protect yourself and go with one of the best, William Petrillo."

O.W.