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Woman tied to racist attack at Santa Rosa McDonald's reaches plea deal

A Novato woman arrested in a knife attack by white supremacists on two black men outside a Santa Rosa McDonald's entered a plea bargain with prosecutors Friday that will get her out of jail.

Vanessa Michaels, 25, was accused of trying to stop a witness from calling the police during the August attack by two Barbarian Brotherhood members. Police said she grabbed a cellphone from a woman's hand about the time a victim was being stabbed.

She was charged along with the gang members with two counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon with hate crime enhancements and faced a possible sentence of 16 years to life in prison.

But on Friday, the most serious charges were dropped when Michaels pleaded no contest to preventing a witness from reporting a crime. The agreement included an admission that she was acting to benefit members of a criminal street gang.

However, she was not charged with being a gang member herself, prosecutor Jason Riehl said.

Michaels was to be released with credit for time already served. She has been in jail since January.

Her lawyer, Rebecca Linkous, said she will receive no additional time at her May 14 sentencing. Her plea bargain did not include an agreement to testify, Linkous said.

Her co-defendant, Aaron Welch, 27, of Clearlake, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A second man, Salvatore Bordessa, 33, of Windsor, is facing trial.


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