A San Jose lawyer known for representing Hells Angels in the South Bay has been indicted on federal charges of obstructing justice and lying to federal agents about his role in tipping off a target of a major drug investigation in Gilroy, allegedly disclosing the probe to a notorious officer of the motorcycle gang who was later shot to death.

An indictment unsealed Friday accuses criminal defense lawyer Michael Edward Hingle of revealing the drug investigation in 2011 to Steve Tausan, a Hells Angels officer who days later was gunned down in San Jose at the funeral of slain Hells Angels leader Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew.

The indictment alleges that on Oct. 13, 2011, Hingle tipped off Tausan to the probe to alert an unidentified "client," described as a person targeted in "Operation Garlic Press," an investigation that involved at least 100 search and arrest warrants across Santa Clara County. Federal and state prosecutors indicted dozens of people in the case, which involved violent Gilroy-based gang members linked to gun and methamphetamine trafficking.

Based on federal prosecutors' timeline, the 52-year-old Tausan was shot to death during a fight at Pettigrew's funeral two days after Hingle tipped him off. There is no indication the drug probe was related to Tausan's slaying; Hells Angels member Steven Ruiz was charged with the slaying after eluding capture for months.


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Hingle pleaded not guilty Friday in San Jose federal court, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal set his bail at $100,000, according to court records.

The indictment alleges that after Hingle warned Tausan about the operation, the gang member tipped off friends of the "client," even sending a text message warning of imminent arrests in the drug probe. Hingle is charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for disclosing a secret grand jury investigation.

Federal law enforcement officials began probing Hingle's role in March 2012, and FBI officials questioned him at his San Jose law office in September, according to the indictment. Hingle is charged with three counts of making false statements to federal agents as a result of the FBI interview.

Mary McNamara, Hingle's lawyer, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The State Bar of California in 2004 disciplined Hingle with a private reprimand for undisclosed reasons, according to Bar records. Hingle faces the loss of his law license if convicted of the felony charges, which expose him to years in federal prison.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz