column was published in the North
Shore News on
Jan. 31, 2001)
Convictions say Angels not bigger than society
By Leo Knight
significance of last week's convictions, in B.C. Supreme Court,
of two senior members of the Hells Angels was virtually lost on
most of the mainstream media.
the exception of The Province, which featured the story
on the front page, the remainder of the print and broadcast
media either ignored the story or played it far down in the news
is, until a couple of Neanderthals allegedly threatened junior
prosecutor Ernie Froess in the food court of Pacific Centre
fact, The Province's front page played a prominent role
in the threatening of Froess. The two thugs brandished the
newspaper, pointing at the headline "Hells Angels convicted
for the first time" as they tried to intimidate Froess.
quite apart from being incredibly stupid, this act by the bikers
forced all of the media to have a serious look at this case. And
that is what experienced gangsters don't want.
the shooting of Montreal crime reporter Michel Auger. He covered
the ongoing underworld war for control of the drug trade
extensively. A couple of biker wannabes, trying to curry favour
with the big boys, botched the execution in the parking lot
where he worked.
singular act of incredible stupidity galvanized this nation in
its revulsion. All political parties spoke out against the crime
and the gangsters responsible, demanding such things as the
suspension of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a crackdown
on the bikers.
that's bad for business. The gang leaders know this and that is
why there is reason to believe those who perpetrated the outrage
on Auger have themselves been executed for their folly.
Hells Angels in particular, and outlaw biker gangs in general,
don't believe in the rules of society. They call themselves
"one per centers" -- representing the one percent of
society who will not conform to civilized laws and mores.
and dandy, to a point. But over the years they changed from beer
guzzling bullies on bikes to one of the most sophisticated
organized crime groups in the world. And that's where society
has to draw the line.
cornerstones of democracy include a free press and an
independent justice system. An attack on either is an attack on
society itself. To a large degree that is what is inherently
wrong with the Angels. They have seemingly decided they are
bigger than society itself.
story of the convictions last week was the message that, in
Vancouver, this is not the case. At least, that was what should
have been the message. But, for some reason, much of the media
missed it entirely.
who did report on the convictions didn't get it right, falling
prey to the misinformation and spin provided by defence counsel
the verdict was announced, Westlake pooh-poohed the case, saying
the jury was obviously split because they didn't convict on all
five charges. Huh?
Westlake topped that logic-defying bit of drivel when he said
that this case was all about a $7,800 coke deal. Well, whatever,
truth of the matter is, needless to say, considerably different.
Yes, there was testimony of an agent involved in purchasing
$7,800 worth of cocaine, but the case involved a significant
criminal conspiracy captured on hundreds of hours of wiretaps
and countless more hours of physical surveillance.
is interesting that Westlake tried to make light of the work the
police had done. Originally scheduled for five weeks, the trial
dragged out over five months because of more defence motions
than Carter has little liver pills. You name it and Westlake
I might add, trying to get yours truly subpoenaed to try and
make a mistrial motion out of something I had written six months
ago. A minor throwaway reference in a column about something
totally unrelated. That, like much of the rest of the
smokescreen, was tossed.
that I have a problem with what Westlake did in conducting the
defence. That's his job. But we might do well to remember that
it is Ernie Froess' job to prosecute. And Westlake, as counsel
to the Hells Angels, should help his clients understand that.
the trial, the defence tried to paint the police as "junior
officers", trying to infer they didn't know what they were
doing. Well, the police did a flawless job as evidenced by the
admission of all the wiretap evidence and the subsequent
a compliant media swallowed all the spin without question. It
led to the usual letters to the editor in various publications
complaining about the police wasting all that time and money for
a small drug arrest.
there were the letters of complaint saying this was all a waste
for a mere two years in prison. Again, one has to question the
Peter Hogg was asked what the Crown would be seeking in the
sentencing hearing. Hogg would not tip his hand, only saying he
would be seeking "federal time." The reporter
explained that meant a sentence of two years or more. And that
is quite true. But, it really means anything from two years to
life, and all stops in between.
somehow that simple response became a carved-in-stone two years.
Well that's just simply not true. Hogg will ask for serious
time. He likely will be more than a little disappointed if two
years is all these guys see. And so he should be.
And so too, should you.