San Jose: Ex-Hells Angel gets plea deal in funeral murder

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SAN JOSE -- An ex-Hells Angels member charged with killing another biker at a huge San Jose funeral two years ago accepted a deal Tuesday to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a prison sentence of three years and eight months.

Steve Ruiz, 40, was charged with fatally shooting Steve Tausan on Oct. 15, 2011, at Oak Hill Cemetery, where more than 3,000 people gathered for the funeral of the president of the San Jose chapter of the outlaw motorcycle club.

Santa Clara County prosecutor Chuck Gillingham Jr. said he reduced the original murder charge to voluntary manslaughter for two principal reasons.

Although Ruiz used too much force, Gillingham said, he was acting in the "good faith belief'' that he needed to defend himself from Tausan, who he'd been fighting with moments earlier.

Also, some of the prosecution's witnesses had extensive criminal backgrounds, including one key person whose rap sheet was 12 pages long, Gillingham said.

Ruiz and Tausan both were attending the funeral of slain San Jose chapter Hells Angels president Jeff "Jethro" Pettigrew. He was killed in September at a Nevada casino, reportedly by a member of the rival Vagos gang.

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Tracey Kaplan
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