The accused Ronaldo Lising, Randy Potts, John Virgil Punko and Jean Joseph Violette laughed and congratulated their lawyers after the verdict.Hells Angel Ronaldo Lising had a substantial criminal record for assault and trafficking cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, and was on bail when he was arrested on the two firearms offences now before the court.“Mr. Lising is a sophisticated criminal,” the prosecutor told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly.“He leads a criminal lifestyle,” Levitz added, reading out a wiretap statement in which Lising confided he was taking a risk, especially since he has children, but also had to weigh the rewards of his activities.The Crown asked the judge to impose a 30-month sentence, consecutive to the nine years and three months Lising is already serving.Four Hells Angels laughed and shook hands with their lawyers Monday after a jury acquitted them of committing crimes in association with, or for the benefit of, a criminal organization.While the jury returned nine guilty verdicts on a 28-charge indictment against the four members of the Hells Angels' East End chapter, the rejection of the criminal organization charge was a blow to the Crown.Had it succeeded, it would have been the first such conviction in B.C. against the Hells Angels, which has always maintained it is just a motorcycle club.
It was the second failed test case of the anti-gang law against the Hells Angels in B.C. arising from the same $10-million police investigation."It's unfortunate the jury wasn't able to conclude what judges in other parts of Canada found -- that the Hells Angels is a criminal organization," prosecutor Mark Levitz said outside court after the verdict.The jury did find the accused guilty of some extortion and weapons offences "and we're pleased to that extent," he said.The verdict, which followed three days of jury deliberations and a nine-month trial, was also a disappointment to police, who promised to pay $1 million to key witness Michael Plante, who worked as a police agent and infiltrated the East End chapter of the Hells Angels.
"We're grateful to live in a democracy and have a jury system," defence lawyer Bonnie Craig, one of three lawyers representing Potts,said after the verdict.
Potts, Punko and Lising will remain in custody until sentencing July 22. Violette will remain on bail until he is sentenced Oct. 28 by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly.Potts was convicted 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.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. He was also convicted of the illegal possession of a loaded Beretta 20 semi-automatic pistol and a Ruger SP 101 revolver.Punko was convicted of counselling Plante to commit mischief by wilfully damaging property, and the unauthorized possession of a loaded Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol.The two-year, $10-million police investigation that led to the just-concluded trial has also resulted in other criminal proceedings. The final one, a drug trial involving two Hells Angels members, begins Sept. 9.Last year, David Francis Giles, 58, a senior member of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels, was acquitted of cocaine trafficking in Kelowna but two co-accused were convicted.The Hells Angels now operate a clubhouse in the Okanagan city.