Saturday, 13 March 2010

Hells Angels members get short jail sentences

Posted by Social Enterprize 16:01, under | No comments

Hells Angels members get short jail sentences Friday for serious drug trafficking offences, rather than the lengthy prison terms the Crown had urged.B.C. Justice Peter Leask decided a number of mitigating factors would reduce the sentences of Hells Angels members John Virgil Punko and Randy Richard Potts, including Potts' chronic back pain and a recurring abscess on his buttocks that causes him considerable pain and discomfort.
The judge sentenced Potts to one year in jail, which was much less than the 12 years requested by federal prosecutor Martha Devlin.
Punko, 43, was handed a 14-month sentence. The Crown had asked for 16 years.
During sentencing, Leask said both bikers were "pawns of police" because they were low-level targets used to try to get to high-level targets within Vancouver's East End chapter of the Hells Angels.
The bikers were charged in 2005 after a two-year $10-million police investigation code-named Project E-Pandora. A total of six Hells Angels and 13 associates were charged.
RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, the officer in charge of the investigation, said there were obvious discrepancies between Friday's sentences and the long prison terms requested by the Crown.
"We certainly respect the position of the court," he said. "Sentencing is extremely complex. I would never question what a judge brings down."
Asked about Potts and Punko being called "pawns of police" by the judge, Shinkaruk said: "Investigating criminal organizations is extremely complicated... We certainly worked within the means of the law."
Potts and Punko pleaded guilty last Dec. 7 to trafficking cocaine, possessing more than $387,000 cash that was the proceeds of crime and conspiring to produce methamphetamine in a drug lab and distribute it.
The guilty pleas came after Leask tossed out last year the criminal organization charges, which alleged Potts and Punko committed their drug crimes for the benefit of a criminal organization -- the East End Hells Angels.
Leask concluded the Crown could not proceed on the criminal organization charges because a jury last summer had acquitted Potts, Punko and two other Hells Angels members of similar charges. The Crown is also appealing that ruling by Leask.
During sentencing Friday, Leask said he would have sentenced Punko to six years in prison if the case had gone to trial, but deducted one year for pleading guilty, deducted another year for the "police involvement in creating the crimes" and gave 34 months credit for the time Punko served in custody before sentencing.
The judge found that police used an agent, Michael Plante, who fed Punko's addiction to the prescription painkiller Percocet and got Punko involved in methamphetamine production.
Punko, 43, also sold Plante five kilograms of cocaine. Plante infiltrated the East End Hells Angels by being accepted to apply as a Hells Angels member.
Punko was previously convicted of cultivating marijuana, mischief under $5,000, contempt of court for refusing to testify at another Hells Angels trial and for threatening a prosecutor at a Hells Angels trial in 2002.
Potts, 49, had a previous criminal record for possession of stolen property and using a stolen credit card in Ontario, careless use of a firearm in Surrey and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000.
Potts pleaded guilty last year to being involved in a meth lab with Plante, who worked as a police agent and infiltrated Vancouver's East End chapter of the Hells Angels, and sold him 28 ounces of cocaine.
The judge found Potts was not a sophisticated criminal and was, at the time of his crimes, an alcoholic addicted to Percocets supplied by the police agent, Plante, who secretly tape recorded conversations between Punko, Potts and a meth lab cook named Ryan Renaud, whom Punko suspected was also working for the UN gang and its boss Clay Roueche.
Last summer, a jury convicted Punko, Potts and two other Hells Angels members, Ronaldo Lising and Jean Violette, of weapons offences and extortion.
In that case, Punko was convicted of the unauthorized possession of a loaded semi-automatic Smith & Wesson pistol and sentenced to 15 months in jail, plus a consecutive sentence of four years for counselling Plante to do damage to a Surrey home, where Punko was trying to collect a large sum of money from a man.
Potts was convicted last summer of four offences: having control of illegal grenades, possessing a loaded Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol, possessing an Intratec 9-mm semi-automatic pistol, a Ruger .22-calibre semi-automatic rifle and Voere bolt-action rifle and a .44 Ruger revolver.
He received a sentence of effectively time served on the weapons offences.
Lising was convicted of possessing two loaded prohibited firearms: a Rossi .357 Magnum revolver and a Walther PPK/S .380-calibre semi-automatic pistol.
Violette was found guilty of the extortion of Glen Louie, a drug dealer who was beaten for using the Hells Angels name without permission. Violette was also convicted of the illegal possession of a loaded Beretta 20 semi-automatic pistol and a Ruger SP 101 revolver.


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