An alleged member of the Bavarian Brotherhood white supremacist group was held over for trial this afternoon on charges of assaulting two black men in Santa Rosa in August. Salvatore Bordessa, 33, of Windsor, and Aaron Welch, 27, of Clearlake were charged with a hate crime, a knife assault of the two men near the McDonald’s restaurant on Santa Rosa Avenue on Aug. 26. Welch stabbed one of the men in the arm and leg, and both men yelled racial slurs and pro-Bavarian Brotherhood slogans during the confrontation, according to testimony at today’s preliminary hearing in Sonoma County Superior Court.
Welch pleaded guilty in January to two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon and admitted inflicting great bodily injury and hate crime and gang allegations. He faces 15 years in prison as part of the plea agreement. Bordessa faces 16 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the nine counts and gang and hate crime allegations against him.
A third defendant, Vanessa Michaels, 25, of Novato, was ordered to stand trial this afternoon to the assaults and intimidating a witness. She allegedly grabbed the cellphone from the girlfriend of one of the victims who was trying to call police. According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, the confrontation began when one of the victims told Bordessa and Welch to stop harassing and making derogatory comments to two women. Santa Rosa police Sgt. John Cregan said at first the suspects and victims exchanged words, and the victims, one of whom is a Sonoma County corrections officer, fled to an auto repair parking lot when Bordessa and Welch, armed with knives, “squared off” toward them. Cregan said Bordessa and Welch then found the two victims, who are brothers, and assaulted them.
Bordessa’s attorney Joseph Passalacqua told Judge Gary Medvigy the confrontation began because one of the victims challenged Bordessa and Welch about their treatment of the two women. He said the assaults were not motivated by hate, but by the victim’s comments toward Bordessa and Welch. Michaels’ attorney Rebecca Linkous said her client, who had dated Welch but broke up with him before the assault, is not a member of the Bavarian Brotherhood. She said Michaels didn’t make any threats when she grabbed the cell phone from the victim’s girlfriend. At most, Michaels is guilty of a misdemeanor count of interfering with a witness, Linkous said. Deputy District Attorney Jason Riehl asked Medvigy to hold both defendants over for trial on all the charges against them. Michaels and Bordessa are scheduled to re-enter pleas on April 12.
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