Montreal Hells Angels Guilty  

GUILTY AS HELLS

By CATHERINE SOLYOM

Montreal Gazette

Sept. 12, 2003

Jean-Guy Bourgouin: "Guilty."

René Charlebois: "Guilty."

Denis Houle: "Guilty."

One by one, nine of Quebec's most notorious bikers stood up behind the bulletproof glass and pronounced the word that brought an abrupt end to one of the biggest murder trials in Canadian history.

 

Jean-Guy Bourgouin

In a courtroom thick with anticipation, all nine - including four of Hells Angels kingpin Mom Boucher's right-hand men in the elite Nomads - pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, gangsterism and conspiracy to commit murder.

Plainclothes police officers lined the walls to see where their eight-year crackdown on biker gangs would lead, while teams of lawyers from both Hells Angels megatrials hustled for seats.

Then there was the public - including the girlfriends and wives of the accused - waiting to hear how almost a year of haggling and waiting and more haggling would end.

"This time, I didn't make you come for nothing," Quebec Superior Court Justice Réjean Paul told the jury before informing them of the guilty pleas and sending them home for good.

No picture

Rene Charlebois

"Now I can say 'mission accomplished.' "

 

Denis Houle

Sentencing will be on Sept. 22.

Paul thanked the jury for their "colossal" work, determination and patience throughout 11 months of a trial prone to derailment and frequent delays. In fact, the jury sat in court for only about 65 days since the trial began last October.

Paul also told them what they would have had to endure had the nine bikers not pleaded guilty: about 200 witnesses would have been called to testify, costing the government - and taxpayers - several million dollars.

That's on top of the $16.5 million spent to build the special high-tech courthouse in which they sat, and boosted legal aid fees for many of the lawyers.

Chief prosecutor André Vincent also thanked the jury and told them the justice minister would be dropping the first-degree murder charges facing the nine bikers, who, on top of the four Nomads, included one Nomad prospect and four Rockers, a gang formed specifically to do the Nomads' dirty work.

 

Daniel Lanthier

All the charges relate to crimes committed between 1995 and 2001, when the Hells Angels were locked in a deadly turf war with rival gangs for control of Montreal's drug trade.

Vincent insisted to journalists, however, that this was not a deal designed to save money at the expense of justice.

"It's a fact that such trials cost society a lot of money," he said outside the courtroom. "But I assure you it was never a question of saving money."

Rather, it was a question of the Crown hedging its bets, he said.

The Crown had "infallible" evidence proving the charges to which the nine pleaded guilty yesterday, Vincent said, and linking each biker to 13 murders would have been much more difficult. (The jury had heard that often the shooter would use a getaway vehicle that was later torched to hide fingerprints or DNA evidence and that those who ordered a killing didn't necessarily carry it out.)

 

Sylvain Laplante

But while this megatrial is now officially over, a new trial or trials will be scheduled for the final three of what was originally a cast of 13 bikers accused of 13 murders - Jean-Richard Larivière, Pierre Laurin and Gregory Wooley - for whom the Crown says it does have direct evidence linking them to the murders.

Another trial will also be held for Paul (Smurf) Brisebois, who decided to stick with his lawyer, Réal Charbonneau, who was tossed out of court for continually disrupting decorum and talking back to the judge.

A publication ban on a special motion that saw the trial delayed for weeks remains in effect until after the sentencing of the nine bikers. But yesterday proved an auspicious occasion for a post mortem on the megatrial.

Martin Tremblay, the only defence lawyer willing to comment yesterday, said his client, Jean-Richard Larivière, was happy with the outcome even though he was not part of the deal.

His new trial would be much simpler, Tremblay said. "(The megatrial) was a good experience, but it's complicated with 12 (accused)."

Vincent said that despite the problems, the mega-option was the only way to go.

"Is it preferable to have 42 trials or one?" Vincent asked. "Megatrials reflect the situation of Canadian society where organized crime is a fact. The question is, are our procedures adapted to that fact?"

Megatrials - and mega-headaches - are not unique to Quebec, Vincent added, as other provinces are having difficulties with this "new phenomenon."

Also, a gangsterism megatrial in an adjacent courtroom at Gouin was aborted seven months into the proceedings at great expense last year, when the presiding judge quit following a reprimand by the Canadian Judicial Council.

In comparison, this megatrial was a stunning success.

"It's a great day for justice in Quebec," said Vincent's boss, Justice Minister Marc Bellemare, in Quebec City yesterday. "I give my respects to the prosecutors who worked on the case. They have done exceptional work."

ALLISON HANES contributed to this report

Copyright 2003    Montreal Gazette

'The bosom of a gang'

By PAUL CHERRY

Montreal Gazette

Sept. 12, 2003

Among the nine gang members to plead guilty at the Hells Angels megatrial yesterday were men who ranged in rank from "full-patch" Nomad, once considered elite status in Quebec, to Rocker, which is basically someone expected to do the dirty work for the gang's network.

They also ranged in age, from 35 to 53, and criminal backgrounds. But they were united in what prosecutor André Vincent referred to at the start of the trial as "the bosom of a gang."

"They had an objective that was common - that is, to assure the supremacy of the Hells Angels Nomad chapter on the territory of Montreal," Vincent said.

Here is a look at the nine.

Denis Houle, 50 (Nomad): "With the Hells, I have found a family," Houle told a prison psychologist who had asked him why he wouldn't quit the gang back in 1992.

Gilles Mathieu

Houle, who dropped out of school in Grade 8, was serving time for being an accomplice after the fact in the 1985 purge of five Hells Angels at the gang's bunker in Lennoxville.

While out on parole in 1993, Houle told the parole board he was working for a hardware company with a salary of $30,000. But his claims appeared to be a ruse when he was arrested for drunk driving in 1995 and was caught wearing his gang colours. The police also found evidence that Houle was helping to set up the Nomads chapter. Months later, the chapter was officially chartered and Houle was considered a founding member.

Gilles Mathieu, 53 (Nomad): Considered by police to be one of the more intelligent members of the Nomad chapter. According to a court document made public last year, Mathieu owned advertising signboards at the West Edmonton Mall worth $2.3 million before he was arrested.

He has rarely spent time in jail in Quebec and avoided being convicted in the 1985 massacre of five fellow Hells Angels members in Lennoxville because he was able to prove he had shown up after the carnage took place. But he, Houle and six other gang members were caught in February 2001 holding a meeting in a downtown hotel room looking over photos of their rivals. People at the hotel noticed some of the gang members were armed. When the police arrested the eight, they seized an equal amount of firearms. Mathieu quickly pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Pierre Provencher

Normand Robitaille, 35 (Nomad): In 1995, when Robitaille was only a Rocker, he and Jean-Guy Bourgouin were arrested together in an extortion plot. The pair broke into the home of a South Shore businessperson, saying they wanted to collect $450,000 the man owed to a business associate.

The victim was driven to a Caisse Populaire in St. Hyacinthe and ordered to get two cheques for $225,000 each. The victim called the police from inside the credit union and Robitaille and Bourgouin were arrested as they waited in a car outside. Both were armed with handguns.

While serving his sentence for the botched extortion attempt, Robitaille was suspected of running a small drug network inside a penitentiary. Prison officials caught wind of his gang affiliations, but Robitaille assured a psychologist that he wanted out. He told her he realized that if he didn't quit the gang, his life was in danger.

Normand Robitaille

René Charlebois, 38 (Nomad): By the age of 19, Charlebois was already a criminal, breaking into nine chalets in a town in the Laurentians in the same day and stealing anything he could get his hands on, including fishing equipment and binoculars.

Informants testified that during the 1990s, while Charlebois was a Rocker, he earned $12,000 a month as part of the Hells Angels drug-trafficking network.

 

Stéphane Sirois, a former member of the Rockers who turned informant, said Charlebois asked him to do surveillance on a Rock Machine associate who eventually ended up dead.

Guillaume Serra, 38 (Nomad prospect): According to court testimony from an informant, Serra controlled a significant amount of cocaine trafficking on St. Laurent Blvd.

Guillaume Serra

In 1994, Serra was arrested with 42 grams of cocaine after a Montreal police officer on patrol noticed his car double-parked on St. Laurent. Serra was selling the cocaine to another man. But a year later, he managed to beat the rap because the charges were thrown out of court.

Jean-Guy Bourgouin, 37 (Rocker): Before the megatrial, he was perhaps best known for a 1998 altercation in a trendy downtown bar between members of the Rockers and players from the Alouettes football team, including linebacker Stephan Reid and quarterback Anthony Calvillo.

 

The men were tossed out of the club, but Bourgouin ended up beating Reid with a metal pole outside. The biker pleaded guilty to assault and was fined $2,000 and ordered to stay out of bars.

Daniel Lanthier, 44 (Rocker): According to court testimony from an informant, Lanthier was supposed to seek out new territory where the Hells Angels could sell drugs on Montreal Island.

He was one of the first members of the Rockers but, according to an informant witness, he got in trouble with the gang for selling drugs on the South Shore. He had to be reminded that his Rockers patch limited him to Montreal.

Sylvain Laplante, 45 (Rocker): While the Hells and the Rockers were under intense police surveillance, a bug was placed in Laplante's car. He was overheard bragging to his wife about how powerful the Nomads were.

Before he was arrested in March 2001, Laplante had amassed a significant criminal record, including four convictions for drug trafficking in 1991.

Pierre Provencher, 54 (Rocker): According to court testimony, Provencher was among a group of Rockers who were supposed to gain control of drug turf in Verdun during the late 1990s. The Rock Machine was already well-established in the area, and the battle for Verdun became a focal point in the biker-gang war.

Informant Stéphane (Godasse) Gagné testified that it was Provencher who recruited him to be a member of the Rockers "football team," a euphemism for the death squad.

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The Victims

Pierre (Ti-Bum) Beauchamp, 46, killed Dec. 20, 1996: A drug dealer close to the rival Rock Machine who knew there was a Hells Angels contract out on his head.

Marc (Cash) Belhumeur, 25, killed Jan. 24, 1997: A member of the Rock Machine, Belhumeur was fatally shot on his birthday in a Notre Dame St. E. bar said to be a Hells Angels hangout.

Yvon (Momo) Roy, 57, killed July 30, 1998: Shot while mowing the lawn of his Repentigny home. He was a member of the Alliance, a group affiliated with the Rock Machine.

Johnny Plescio, 34, killed Sept. 8, 1998: The founding member of the Rock Machine was watching TV at his Laval home when assassins cut his cable wire. He got up to check the TV and was shot through the window.

Jean Rosa, 33, killed Sept. 24, 1998: A member of the Rock Machine's hit squad, the Dark Circle, Rosa was shot outside his Laval home. He had served 21/2 years in jail for the attempted murder of two Hells Angels sympathizers.

Pierre Bastien, 41, killed Oct. 22, 1998: A member of the Dark Circle hit squad. In December 1998, police said they would have liked to question him in connection with the 1997 BioChem Pharma bombing, but by then he'd already been killed. Bastien was convicted in 1996 of being part of a conspiracy to kill a Hells Angels sympathizer.

Stéphane Morgan and Daniel Boulet, both 30, killed Nov. 10, 1998: A full-fledged member of the Rock Machine, Morgan had a lengthy criminal record, mostly for drug and weapons possession. He was shot to death in a car in north-end Montreal, along with Boulet, a drug dealer for the gang. Boulet had recently been charged with a parole violation and had been accused of trafficking in cocaine and hashish since 1997. He and Morgan had the same birthday, Dec. 12.

Richard Parent, killed Aug. 5, 1999: The brother-in-law of the Cazzetta brothers, two founding members of the Rock Machine who are in jail.

Serge Hervieux, 38, killed Aug. 26, 1999: An innocent victim of the biker wars. At a car-rental business, a hit man called out the name Serge, looking for another man - probably his boss, Serge Bruneau, a suspected member of the Dark Circle. But Hervieux, a father of two, looked up and was shot.

Tony Plescio, 36, killed Oct. 1, 1999: A founding Rock Machine member like his brother, Johnny. He was shot while leaving a birthday party for his daughter at a McDonald's restaurant. His wife was shot in the leg.

Patrick Turcotte, 24, killed May 1, 2000: The Rock Machine associate was shot several times while walking in Verdun.

François Gagnon, 41, killed June 6, 2000: The convicted drug dealer was shot dead in his Montreal North home. He had had psychiatric problems and had been charged a few times with uttering threats or harassing people, including Journal de Montréal crime reporter Michel Auger, a Montreal police officer and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Copyright 2003    Montreal Gazette

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