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In the Pipeline: A resurrected Hells Angel

August 06, 2012|By Chris Epting

"A cement-covered marshmallow."

That's how Katherine Coones describes her husband Rusty, a 6-foot-5 biker bear of a man who, despite what some might consider to be an intimidating presence, is disarmingly warm and engaging.

On Goldenwest Street right near the 405 Freeway is Illusion Motorsports, the world this couple (along with Rusty's business partner, Rodrigo Requejo) has been building for more than a decade. They call it "the premier motorcycle customizing shop of Orange County," and after a tour, it's obvious why.

Though they'll do tune-ups and other bike maintenance here, it's the design and building that they're primarily focused on. Several dozen bikes in various stages of creation and design are on display, including one $80,000 beauty that Rusty is customizing for a local businessman.

Over the thundering, metallic roar of motorcycle engines, Rusty beams as he leads our tour, stopping to kid with his employees and answer questions about works in progress.

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In a second-story loft, a band rehearsal stage is set up with amps, drums and guitars. The name Attika 7 is emblazoned on a banner.

This is where our story starts to come together. Rusty Coones is a guitar player in a heavy metal band. He's also a Hells Angel, founder of the Orange County chapter and current head of the San Fernando chapter.

He's been an Angel for about 17 years, but we don't talk a lot about the Angels because there's a code about that. And that's fine.

In 1999, Rusty went to prison for conspiracy to distribute ephedrine. He was looking at two life sentences, but was sentenced to eight years and ended up serving six.

Rusty told me he could have had it a lot easier if he'd named names, but he wouldn't do that. Because that's not what Angels do. "I don't tell on anybody, ever," he said. "That's just not how I am."

While in jail — including a stint at New York's notorious Attica prison — Rusty said he thought about "all the stupid things I'd done, along with all the good things I'd done. I read a ton of books. And I decided when I was in there, if I ever got another shot at freedom, that I was going to do it the right way and never put my freedom on the line again."

He missed his kids (now 29 and 30) and his wife while he was in. And he rediscovered his childhood love of making music, so he started writing songs on guitar. Soon, he was playing concerts for the inmates, featuring his raw, heavy metal-based songs that reflected his two intense years in solitary confinement.

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