OAKLAND — A federal magistrate judge signed off on the release of a high-ranking Sonoma Hells Angels member, who is facing charges that he participated in a plot to murder a fellow club member who had fallen out of favor with the notorious biker club.
But the Thursday morning order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Virginia K. DeMarchi is not the end of the debate; the U.S. Attorney’s office is appealing the release order, meaning that the defendant, Jonathan “Jon Jon” Nelson, will remain at Santa Rita Jail for the time being.
If Nelson’s release is approved, he will be required to adhere to certain conditions; he is forbidden from interacting with other Hells Angels members or going to clubhouses. He will also be forbidden from using a computer or the internet and be limited to a flip phone.
Nelson, named by federal prosecutors as the president of the Hells Angels Sonoma Chapter, was indicted in 2017 as part of a large-scale investigation into the Hells Angels. Eleven club members — most of whom were tied to the Sonoma Club — were charged with racketeering and engaging in serious violent crimes, including murder.
But Nelson’s attorneys have painted him as a “father, son, coach, and small business owner” who is well-respected in the Sonoma area. One of the biggest defense points in favor of releasing Nelson was that he spent several months out of jail after the 2017 indictment.
He was detained in September 2018, when prosecutors filed new charges that made Nelson eligible for the death penalty. When the government decided not to pursue death in this case, Nelson’s attorney have moved for him to be released from jail.
“I believe one important fact in Mr. Nelson’s favor was his previous good performance while released in this case for over nine months on the previous indictment,” said Jai Gohel, one of Nelson’s lawyers. “Also, it is clear that the fact that Mr. Nelson no longer faces the death penalty was enough to tip the balance towards his release.”
Nelson is facing charges that he conspired with several other Hells Angels to murder Joel Silva, a former Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms who prosecutors say had fallen out of favor with his fellow club members. Prosecutors allege that Nelson lured Silva to the Fresno clubhouse, where another member shot him in the head.
Silva was illegally cremated at a nearby funeral home, according to prosecutors. Brian Wendt, the president of the Fresno Hells Angels chapter, is alleged to have pulled the trigger.
Source: The Mercury News