(Published in 24 Hours Sept. 26, 2012)

More judges need to recognize the power of the patch


   By Leo Knight


In a remarkable court decision last week in Alberta, a judge sentenced one full-patch Hells Angel and a prospect to jail for 10 years each for their role in protecting a major cocaine conspiracy. That in itself is not that unusual. Individual members of the infamous motorcycle gang intermittently get picked off by law enforcement and even occasionally go to jail.

In her judgment, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sheila Grecko said, “They brought not only their individual reputations, but brought the reputation of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in their protection of the organization.”

The judge found Alan Peter Knapczyk and John Reginald Alcantara guilty of conspiring to traffic cocaine and conspiring to traffic cocaine for the benefit of a criminal organization.

It’s high time other members of the judiciary start recognizing that the primary weapon of the Hells Angels is the power of the patch — intimidation.

In this case, the bikers were providing protection to ensure there were no product rip-offs and no competition in cash-rich Fort McMurray, near the oil sands. They were using the power of the patch to intimidate and frighten. In return, they shared in the profits of the drug ring.

Much like the tentacles of traditional organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs are every bit as much a part of the organized crime problem facing this country as the mafia. The RCMP estimates there are more than a hundred members of the Hells Angels in B.C. alone with more than 500 nationwide.

Courts in B.C. and Ontario have recognized the Hells Angels as a criminal organization and not just a bunch of beefy, tattooed white guys who drink beer and ride Harleys. Police across Canada have been working for years to get the outlaw motorcycle gang declared a criminal organization. This would open up other gang-related charges in nearly every investigation — but so far it has been a tough slog.

Two weeks ago, RCMP in B.C. announced they have laid additional charges against the Hells Angels, resulting from their 20-month investigation dubbed E-Predicate, including charges against the vice-president and the sergeant-at-arms of the Kelowna chapter.

By recognizing the power of the patch, Madame Justice Grecko has opened the door for the B.C. charges to succeed.

Bikers are into all manner of criminal activity. Intimidation is their primary weapon. Finally, the judiciary seems to be recognizing it.


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