Hell Angels members face life sentences for murder, racketeering

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SONOMA CO. (CBS SF/BCN) – A federal court convicted two members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Sonoma County and a third Angel from Fresno on charges of murder in aid of racketeering this week.

On Wednesday, a judge found Jonathan Nelson, aka “Jon Jon,” 46, of Santa Rosa; Russell Taylor Ott, aka “Rusty,” 69, also of Santa Rosa, and Brian Wayne Wendt, 45, of Tulare, guilty of having killed one of their own members and and to have taken part in conspiracy to commit murder, the Department Of Justice said.

The Sonoma County Hells Angels club formed in 1972 and makes some of its income from selling shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and other swag bearing the club’s logo. They have also sponsored toy drives for children.

The eight-year investigation into the Sonoma club involved the DOJ, the Santa Rosa Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Eleven members of the Hells Angels were indicted in 2017 for conspiracy, which the DOJ said involved murder, drug dealing, assault, robbery, extortion, illegal possession of firearms and obstruction of justice. Nelson, Ott and Wendt were all part of that sweep and have been convicted of killing Joel Silva, a member whom they determined had been “creating problems” for the motorcycle club, according to the DOJ.

According to federal prosecutors, Nelson arranged for Silva’s murder with Ott. The deed went down in Fresno on July 15, 2014, when Ott drove Silva there on the pretense of his needing to “fight” with the Fresno chapter’s president, Wendt, in order to resolve his problems with the club. Upon arrival, Wendt shot Silva in the head. The next day, Silva’s body was incinerated at a local crematorium.

The trial brought out other information about the Hells Angels club in Sonoma. Witnesses testified that there was a pattern of threatening anyone who approached the police about the motorcycle gang’s activities. Those who might testify or serve as witnesses– as well as their families– were told in no uncertain terms that harm would come to them.

All three defendants are facing a mandatory life sentence in prison, the DOJ said. 

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