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Steven Gareau, an Ottawa drug dealer condemned to life in prison in 2000 as a Hells Angels contract killer

Friday, 27 April 2012

Steven Gareau, an Ottawa drug dealer condemned to life in prison in 2000 as a Hells Angels contract killer, has won a new trial after filing a handwritten appeal to court from his jail cell. Gareau, now 56, filed the handwritten appeal last year on several grounds — notably that the trial judge erred when she told the jury they could consider as evidence the fact that his co-conspirators in the killing had previously been found guilty. The appeal court of Nova Scotia — where the homicide plot was executed in October 2000 — ruled this week that the trial judge made a “fatal error” when she told the jury in her charge they could consider that evidence. “Specifically the judge told the jury that they could use this evidence against this appellant when considering his guilt or innocence,” the appeal court ruled. Gareau’s conviction as a Hells Angels hit man has been set aside. His new trial date has not yet been scheduled, but top Ottawa Mounties didn’t waste any time reaching out to their prized Hells Angels informant, who testified against Gareau in the murder of Sean Simmons, a 31-year-old steamship checker on the Halifax waterfront. On Thursday, a senior Mountie handler texted Paul Derry, the informant now on the run from the biker gang and making his home under a new name in a series of roadside motels. It was unusual for the Mounties to be reaching out to Derry, because their relationship soured years ago. But while driving a minivan outside of Toronto Thursday, the informant got a text from a Mountie telling him that Gareau had won a new trial. There may be a new trial — but there may not be a star witness. Prosecutors who won a conviction against Gareau relied almost exclusively on the informant’s testimony. Derry, however, told the Citizen that he won’t testify again unless he’s afforded protection and paid cash money, like he was for the months leading up to the original trial. Reached Thursday night, Derry told the Citizen: “I don’t know about testifying. I would only do it again if I was protected, and to be honest, I’m uncomfortable with it if the Mounties are in charge of my protection. “My father said it best. He was in the navy on big ships, but always told me he would have felt safer in a canoe with a .22,” Derry said. “The Mounties couldn’t protect me if they tried.” Derry was the getaway driver in the 2000 killing. He drove the car, supplied the gun and later buried it. But he was spared charges when he made a deal with police and prosecutors. He was granted immunity in exchange for turning state’s evidence. Derry had been playing both sides of the law for 17 years. He was a drug dealer and had wormed his way into the Hells Angels Halifax chapter, getting so close that he dealt their drug supply on that city’s streets. Gareau worked as a dealer for Derry in Ottawa and later Halifax, but had no idea that his drug boss was a longtime police informant. Derry knew about the murder plot against Simmons, but told court that his underling, Gareau, may not have known. Still, a jury convicted Gareau for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder even though he never squeezed the trigger, and testified in his own defence saying that he thought he was only at Simmons’ apartment building to finish a drug deal. He told the jury he knew nothing about the murder plot. Gareau did however track down the victim, and stood next to the killer as he shot Simmons in the head in the hallway of a Halifax apartment building.

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A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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