OAKLAND — A federal judge denied a defense motion to release the president of the Sonoma Hells Angels from Santa Rita Jail, where he is detained facing racketeering and murder charges.
Jonathan “Jon Jon” Nelson will be able to appeal the decision, issued last week by U.S. District Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins. In the meantime, he remains in pretrial detention where he has been for more than a year.
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The defense, in arguing for Nelson’s release, pointed out that there were no issues when Nelson initially had bailed out of jail in 2017, when he and 10 others were indicted on a slew of charges, including murdering a fellow Hells Angels member. Nelson was taken into custody a year later, after the government decided it may seek death in the indictment, though prosecutors recently decided that the death penalty is off the table in this case.
Cousins said in his July 23 decision that the defense hadn’t met the legal burden for an early release, and that the COVID-19 situation in Santa Rita Jail had not gotten so bad that it impeded the defense. He said Nelson could appeal the decision, and if the COVID-19 outbreak got worse, he may revisit his decision.
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Nelson is charged with — among other things — helping arrange the killing of a Hells Angels sergeant-at-arms named Joel Silva, who prosecutors say had angered fellow Hells Angels with his frequent drug use and by threatening another club member. Prosecutors allege that Silva was lured to the Fresno Hells Angels clubhouse where he was fatally shot, and that his body was disposed of through a clandestine cremation at a crematory.
Nelson’s attorneys have predicted he will be acquitted when the case goes to trial, which is estimated to be sometime in early 2021.