Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 18, 2024
Life Sentences for Three Hells Angels Members in Racketeering and Murder ConspiracySource: Google Street View

In a decisive move to stamp out organized crime, three Hells Angels gang members have been sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in a racketeering conspiracy and a series of violent crimes. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, Jonathan Nelson, also known as Jon Jon, Brian Wayne Wendt, and Russell Taylor Ott, or Rusty, will serve life sentences handed down by U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen.

The convictions rest on murder charges connected to the 2014 killing of Joel Silva, a Hells Angels Sonoma County charter member. The three men were found guilty by a jury last year. In the judgment, U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey was quoted saying, "The record in this case describes a brutal brotherhood whose deeds should shock the conscience of us all". These sentences were intended to not just punish the perpetrators but also bring comfort to communities plagued by such criminal entities. The FBI’s Special Agent in Charge, Robert Tripp, added to underscore the gang's reputation for brutality, noting that the convicted men "used violence and fear to intimidate our community, but their brutality and disregard for human life have now earned them life in prison."

The Hells Angels is an international, violent outlaw motorcycle gang, with the Sonoma County charter being one of its subsets. The gang's wide-ranging criminal activities were laid out in a federal grand jury indictment from 2017, which included murder, assault, narcotics distribution, and robbery, among others. In September 2018, this indictment was expanded upon with the addition of a murder charge linked to Silva's killing.

During the nine-week trial, the survivors of the crimes and law enforcement witnesses depicted a malignant picture of the gang's operations. Testimonies revealed that the group used threats and violence to silence those who dared to speak against them or cooperate with law enforcement. Joining forces with other Hells Angels chapters, the gang members, including Nelson, Wendt, and Ott, were convicted of numerous felonies ranging from RICO conspiracy to murder in support of racketeering. Nelson was further convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon and firearms offenses.

The collective efforts of the FBI, Santa Rosa Police Department, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol, followed by a meticulous investigation, brought this case to a close. In combination with serious consequences for criminal endeavors, these sentences serve as a stern warning that such transgressions against society will not go unpunished. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ajay K. Krishnamurthy and Kevin Barry prosecuted the case, with Kevin Costello assisting. This prosecution is part of a concerted effort spearheaded by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force to tackle high-level criminal organizations across the country.