San Jose defense attorney Michael E. Hingle was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on charges of obstructing justice and making false statements to the FBI in a case involving members of the San Jose charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
At the time of the alleged obstruction Hingle was representing San Jose Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana in two criminal matters including a gunfight at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada in September 2011. Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, the former San Jose charter president was killed in that fight. Villagrana reached a plea deal with prosecutors in Nevada last October and was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison. Villagrana is from Gilroy, California, a town that holds an annual garlic festival.
The indictment also names deceased Hells Angel Steve “187” Tausan. Tausan was fatally shot at Pettigrew’s funeral in October, 2011. His alleged murderer was another San Jose Hells Angel named Steve Ruiz. Ruiz has been in custody since February 2012.
Operation Garlic Press
Hingle is accused of warning Tausan and two unnamed Hells Angels about a combined state and federal “law enforcement action” called “Operation Garlic Press.” The action executed about 100 search and arrest warrants in Santa Clara County on October 14, 2011. Officials had been planning the massive operation since the previous August.
According to the indictment: “Maintaining secrecy of the Operation Garlic Press warrants prior to October 14,2011, was essential to the success of the execution of the arrests, to the collection of evidence, and to the safety of the officers, deputies, and agents involved. Hingle obtained advance knowledge of the Operation Garlic Press warrants and mistakenly believed that the under seal warrants targeted, among others, a person known to Hingle and the Grand Jury as CLIENT, as well as to others associated with CLIENT. Steve Tausan, deceased, was a former friend of Hingle, a bail bondsman in San Jose, California, and a friend of CLIENT. Tausan and CLIENT were also fellow members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. On October 13, 2011, Hingle disclosed to Tausan the information he obtained concerning the Operation Garlic Press warrants with the goal of alerting CLIENT and others about the impending law enforcement actions. That day, Tausan disclosed the information he had received from Hingle to others to accomplish Hingle’s and Tausan’s shared objective of providing this information to CLIENT and others.”
The indictment says Hingle told Tausan about the warrants in a cell phone call on October 13, 2011 and that Tausan then, immediately: “…called a person known to the Grand Jury as FRIEND ONE. Tausan next sent a text message to FRIEND ONE, in which Tausan instructed FRIEND ONE to tell CLIENT about the one hundred arrest warrants, and the need to warn CLIENT about the warrants. FRIEND ONE was a mutual associate of both CLIENT and Tausan. FRIEND ONE and Tausan spoke with each other later that day about the planned arrest warrants. After disclosing the warrant information to FRIEND ONE, on October 13, 2011, at approximately 11 :36 a.m., Tausan sent a text message to a person known to the Grand Jury as FRIEND TWO, in which Tausan disclosed to FRIEND TWO the planned one hundred arrest warrants. FRIEND TWO was a mutual associate of both CLIENT and Tausan.”
Tausan died two days later.
Sweating The Lawyer
Hingle is also charged with three counts of making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations.” The indictment also alleges:
“When questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation whether he told any person of search and arrest warrants that were to be executed on October 14, 2011, Hingle stated that he did not recall telling anyone.”
“When questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation whether he was provided information in advance by any member of law enforcement about the existence of the October 14,2011 warrants, Hingle stated that he did not recall.”
“When questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from whom he received information in advance about the existence of the October 14,2011 warrants, Hingle stated that he did not recall, and that he possibly received the information from someone that law enforcement would ‘characterize as a known associate.’”
Hingle pled not guilty to all charges last week and is free on $100,000 bond.