SEATTLE — A Snohomish man and former Hells Angel on Thursday called the government’s case against him a sham based on the lies of drug-addicted witnesses, crooked cops and a biased judge. He was then sentenced to life in prison for murder.
Rodney Lee Rollness, 46, vowed to file an appeal, clear his name and earn his freedom. A jury convicted him of being a part of an organized crime ring and murdering an Arlington man in 2001.
“I was railroaded. I’m not guilty here. I’m only guilty of standing up for my family and against crooked cops. You’re illegally sentencing an innocent man,” Rollness told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik.
In June, Rollness was found guilty of 13 different counts of racketeering, trafficking in stolen motorcycles and the shooting death of Michael “Santa” Walsh, 47.
Prosecutors said Rollness and former Hells Angel Joshua Binder, 31, of North Bend wanted to punish Walsh for pretending he was a member of the motorcycle club. They lured him to a party in Granite Falls, where Rollness shot him. The brutal murder earned the men the “Filthy Few” patch, bestowed only to members who kill for the Hells Angels, according to prosecutors.
“It’s clear this man is a predator. It’s also clear he doesn’t respect human life,” assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake said. “For his lifetime of crime … it’s appropriate he spend his lifetime behind bars.”
Walsh’s murder attracted little attention at the time but left his family with unimaginable pain and grief, which they continue to carry with them, six years later, Miyake said.
Wendy Walsh called her brother’s murder senseless, stupid and the work of cowards. She also blamed Rollness for hastening the death of her sister, who was fighting cancer at the time of the murder.
It ripped apart their family, his niece Rachealle Walsh said. She is reminded of her uncle’s murder time and again when his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, asks when her son is coming home.
“These men don’t care about the pain they caused,” she said. “The fact they’re serving prison time assures me of the justice system. It doesn’t bring my uncle back to me.”
Speaking on behalf of her husband, Kim Rollness offered her condolences to the Walshes as she addressed the court. Like her husband, she maintained that he is innocent and a victim of a flawed investigation and trial.
“I’m so distraught that these detectives and these prosecutors have put into the mind of this family that they got justice,” Kim Rollness said.
The judge told Rodney Rollness he has a right to appeal his conviction, but declined to address the objections Rollness raised the trial or the conduct of the prosecutors. Lasnik said he was proud of the work that Rollness’s attorneys Jeffrey Ellis and Todd Maybrown did to defend their client.
“The jury’s verdict also is worthy of respect,” Lasnik said.
Rodney Rollness was one of three men convicted in a 10-week trial in Seattle.
Richard “Smilin’ Rick” Fabel, the president of the motorcycle club’s Washington Nomads chapter, and Binder also were convicted of running or conspiring to run an organized crime ring.
The jurors considered 16 counts, which each named at least one defendant. In half of those counts, the jurors failed to reach verdicts on at least one of the defendants named. They deadlocked on Binder’s alleged role in Walsh’s murder and a racketeering charge, witness tampering against Rollness and sale of a stolen Harley-Davidson against Fabel. The jury deadlocked on charges against a fourth defendant, Ricky Jenks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.