2 to Testify in Car Salesman’s Death

From Associated Press

Two men accused of conspiring to kill a Leucadia car salesman decided to accept plea bargains in exchange for their testimony against a co-defendant.

Rocky T. Holton and Steven Gates agreed Monday to accept the plea bargains in exchange for testifying against William Nix in the death of Salvatore Ruscitti.

Ruscitti was gunned down on Sept. 17, 1988, allegedly in retaliation for joining in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Nix’s parents, who owned the car dealership where Ruscitti once worked. The lawsuit alleges that the Nixes conspired to cheat salesmen on commissions.


Holton will be allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter in exchange for his testimony. Holton, who had been accused of murder with special circumstances, thus would face a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison instead of life without parole.

Gates, who also was accused of murder with special circumstances, will plead guilty to a charge of being an accessory to murder, which carries a maximum of three years in prison.

Gates’ plea bargain will not be final until after his testimony, said prosecutor Larry Burns. Burns said he was worried that Gates, a longtime friend of Nix, would go back on his word and not testify at the trial scheduled to begin next month.

Nix, accused of murder with special circumstances, faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

According to Burns, Holton has admitted preparing the car that allegedly was used to drive a hit man from Los Angeles to San Diego and participating in discussions on how the killing would occur.

Burns said Gates has admitted participating in discussions and picking up $10,000 used to pay the hit man, who is still at large. According to Burns, Gates did not know what the money was for when he picked it up.