The B.C. director of civil forfeiture wants criminal convictions against several Hells Angels admitted as evidence in an upcoming civil trial over the seizure of three biker clubhouses.
Lawyer Brent Olthuis, representing the government agency, argued in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that admitting the biker convictions and related court rulings would be appropriate in the civil case.
Olthuis told Justice Barry Davies that the convictions are relevant to show the reputation of the Hells Angels, who he referred to as the HAMC.
“We are wanting to introduce these convictions … against the HAMC members primarily in aid of the allegations … as to the main purposes and activities of the HAMC and the members of that club and their awareness of the club’s public reputation,” Olthuis said. “These convictions are clearly probative.”
He also said that several of the Hells Angels defendants refused to answer questions about the convictions during pre-trial discovery sessions. The long-running civil forfeiture case began in 2007 when the government seized the Hells Angels’ Nanaimo clubhouse, alleging that he had been used for criminal purposes.
The director of civil forfeiture later made the same allegations in lawsuits he filed to seize biker clubhouses for the East End Vancouver and Kelowna chapters. And the Hells Angels filed a countersuit in 2012, seeking to get B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Act declared unconstitutional.
The trial has been delayed several times, but is now set to begin next month at the Vancouver Law Courts.
Hells Angels Clubhouse at 3598 E. Georgia street in Vancouver. Arlen Redekop Arlen Redekop / PNG
The government’s amended claim alleges that if the Hells Angels get to keep the clubhouses they will be used in the future “to enhance the ability of a criminal organization, namely the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, to commit indictable offences.”
Olthuis said it was a more efficient use of the court’s time to enter all the criminal convictions and related rulings into evidence rather than have to call evidence about the individual prosecutions.
He listed the cases he wants admitted:
- the 2007 conviction of former Hells Angels hang-around Jonathan Sal Bryce for trafficking inside the East End clubhouse. Bryce is the son of chapter president John Bryce, and was arrested during the E-Pandora undercover investigation targeting the biker gang;
- Eight different convictions against Nomads Hells Angel Ronaldo Lising, a former East End chapter member;
- Three convictions against East End Hells Angels Jean Violette;
- Six convictions against former East End member John Punko;
- Manslaughter convictions against Kelowna Hells Angels Rob Thomas and Norman Cocks;
- A conviction against former Hells Angel enforcer Jules Stanton, who was murdered in 2010;
- A series of convictions against former Hells Angel Randy Potts;
- Two convictions against Kelowna Hells Angel Joseph Skreptak;
- And convictions against former Nanaimo chapter members Robert “Fred” Widdifield and Rajinder Sandhu in an extortion case;
- Convictions against Kelowna Hells Angels David Giles and Bryan Oldham in a drug conspiracy case. Giles died last year while serving his sentence.
Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse Kim Bolan
Lawyer Greg DelBigio, representing some of the Hells Angels defendants, argued that it would be inappropriate to have the convictions and judgments admitted. He said the earlier cases “are irrelevant to the proceedings and they are beyond the scope of questioning at discovery.”
DelBigio said that because the government is arguing that the clubhouses will be used in the future for criminal activity, it is impossible to speculate about who it believes would be committing the offences.
“My friends don’t say that a particular person at a particular point in time in the future is likely to do a particular crime,” he said. “It is that somebody at some unspecific point of time is going to do something.”
He said that some of the convictions reference are “very, very old” and that have to bearing on the government’s allegations in the current case.
Pre-trial applications are set for two more days this week before the civil forfeiture trial begins April 23.
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