A white supremacist gang member charged with a hate crime in Santa Rosa last August was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court. Aaron Joseph Welch, 26, of Clearlake, pleaded guilty in January to two assault charges and admitted causing great bodily injury to one of the two victims, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Welch also admitted hate crime and gang allegations, Ravitch said. His 15-year sentence was part of a plea agreement. Welch and co-defendant Salvatore Bordessa, 32, of Windsor, were charged with assaulting two black men on Aug. 26 near the McDonald’s restaurant on Santa Rosa Avenue in south Santa Rosa. Welch stabbed one of the two victims, who are brothers, in the arm and leg with a knife while yelling racial slurs and “BBH”, the initials of the “Barbarian Brotherhood,” a white supremacist group, Ravitch said.
Bordessa, 33, of Windsor, also an alleged Barbarian Brotherhood gang member, and Vanessa Michaels, 25, of Novato, were held to answer on assault and gang membership charges after a preliminary hearing this month. A witness tried to call 911 but Michaels allegedly took away her phone, Ravitch said. During the preliminary hearing, Welch’s attorney Rebecca Linkous said her client is not a member of the white supremacist group and did not make any threats to the girlfriend of one of the victims when she tried to call police.
Michaels dated Welch but broke up with him before the assault, Linkous said. Bordessa faces 16 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the nine felony counts and hate crime and gang allegations against him. Bordessa’s attorney Joseph Passalacqua told preliminary hearing judge Gary Medvigy the confrontation began because one of the victims challenged Bordessa and Welch about statements they made to a pregnant woman.
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