Friday, March 28, 2008

B.C. acquittal deals blow to efforts against Hells Angels

Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22)

The cosmos has not selected you for punishment, but you have an uncomfortable sense of impermanence to life at the moment. Mercury is working on sharpening your critical faculties and thus allowing you to outfox your perils.

Gemini (May 21 — June 21)

It would be better to have an urgent issue settled swiftly, so you can get on with your life. It's taking a long time. Haste, however, is inadvisable. Stay calm, stay determined and you'll get the best result.

Scorpio (Oct. 24 — Nov. 22)

Do the opposite of what you would normally do. Push where you think you are supposed to pull. Try everything, even the illogical. By breaking the normal patterns, you will release the creative impulse you need.

Pisces (Feb. 20 — March 20)

Venus's current harmonious angle to your sun sign is as auspicious as walking into a field full of four-leaf clovers. This doesn't mean a lottery win is in store, but you are about to have a secret wish granted.

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B.C. acquittal deals blow to efforts against Hells Angels

VANCOUVER -- In a case police hoped would be the beginning of the end for the Hells Angels in B.C., a veteran, full-patch member of the notorious motorcycle club was acquitted yesterday of drug-trafficking charges and acting on behalf of a criminal organization.

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie of B.C. Supreme Court ruled the Crown's case against David Francis Giles, 58, based on myriad intercepted messages and bugged conversations, was too much speculation and not enough fact.

The verdict dealt a heavy blow to the largest police operation against the Hells Angels in the province's history, lasting two years and costing an estimated $10-million.

For the first time in Canada, police had set out with the prime goal of amassing evidence that the Hells Angels, in this instance the club's prosperous East End chapter in Vancouver, was a criminal organization.

Ahead of yesterday's judgment, police and Hells Angels experts had said the organization feared such a finding, because of the damage to its reputation and the increased arsenal it would give the law against the group's alleged widespread involvement in the criminal underworld.

But the acquittal of Mr. Giles on the drug charges also meant he was not guilty of acting on behalf of a criminal organization, Judge MacKenzie said.

Her ruling also meant she did not have to decide on the critical, landmark issue of whether the Angels' East End chapter itself is a criminal organization.

"I am very, very disappointed," RCMP Chief Superintendent Bob Paulson, who headed the police operation, told CTV News. "I strongly disagree with the judge's decision."

Mr. Giles, meanwhile, whose relatively slight physique belied the beefy stereotype of a Hells Angel biker, walked out of the courthouse with a big smile.

"Am I happy with the way it turned out? One hundred per cent," he said, before the cameras.

"Wouldn't you be?"

Despite Mr. Giles's acquittal, two associates of the Hells Angel member, David Revell and Richard Rempel, were found guilty of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. But like Mr. Giles, they were cleared of acting on behalf of a criminal organization.

The three men had faced the 10-month trial together.

Julian Sher, co-author of two books on the Hells Angels, said the verdict indicates just how difficult it is for the police to nail ringleaders of the group.

"They are going to be shining their Harleys tonight," Mr. Sher said. "The Hells Angels are so impregnable. They isolate themselves [from the criminal activity]. It's their classic modus operandi."

But the fight isn't over, he said, because the judge did not rule on whether the renegade bikers are a criminal organization. "The game is merely postponed. The Angels know there are still big battles ahead."

Charges in this case were laid after police found about nine kilos of cocaine in a storage locker and a secret compartment in a car on a Kelowna used-car lot in April, 2005.

Video surveillance cameras connected Mr. Revell and Mr. Rempel to the drug stashes, Judge MacKenzie concluded. But she questioned the Crown's allegation that the two associates were directed by Mr. Giles as part of the East End chapter's strategy of expanding its involvement in the drug trade to the Okanagan.

Evidence tying Mr. Giles, known as Gyrator in the biker world, to the cocaine was weak, she said, with much of it based on police-recorded conversations containing mumbles, yawns and inaudible passages.

The judge pointed to one occasion when a discussion took place in a room at Mr. Giles's home that had been bugged by police. It was hard to hear, Judge MacKenzie said, because a DVD of the movie Meet the Fockers was playing loudly as Mr. Giles and Mr. Revell appeared to talk about the cocaine bust.

A police transcript of the conversation had Mr. Giles saying: "We'll get back up," implying that he had been involved in the drug trade.

But the judge agreed with defence lawyers who claimed Mr. Giles had actually said: "He'll come back around."

"This demonstrates how unsafe it is to rely on poor quality recordings ... when the context is not clear," she told the crowded courtroom.

All told, 18 arrests were made in the swoop against the Hells Angels in July, 2005. Two more trials arising out of the operation are to begin later this year.

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