Quebec Court of Appeal reduces sentences of several Hells Angels

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Thirty-five Hells Angels have seen the sentences they received significantly reduced in one fell swoop, after having pled guilty to participating in a plot to murder their enemies. 

The sentences were reduced in a decision released on Wednesday by the Quebec Court of Appeal. The decision is yet another considerable blow to the legitimacy of how Quebec’s provincial prosecution bureau (Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales) handled Operation SharQc, a lengthy investigation into the biker gang that initially appeared to have crippled the Hells Angels in the province in 2009. 

Almost every member of the Hells Angels based in Quebec was arrested in Operation SharQc in April 2009 but only five of the dozens initially charged opted to have a trial. It began last year but while it was well underway the presiding judge, Superior Court Justice James Brunton, placed a stay of proceedings on all of the charges the accused faced. The decision put an end to the trial and Brunton based his decision on how the prosecution held back in turning over key evidence, involving a murder in the Eastern Townships, that could have been used to challenge the credibility of a key prosecution witness. 

Brunton’s decision put an end to the trial of five men who were alleged to have been members of the Sherbrooke chapter of the Hells Angels, between 1994 and 2002, while the biker gang was at war with its rivals across Quebec. The men — Claude Berger, Yvon Tanguay, François Vachon, Sylvain Vachon, and Michel Vallières — were on trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder over the eight-year period but also faced first-degree murder charges as well.

The stunning decision had a ripple effect that touched off an internal investigation within days into who was at fault for holding back the evidence from defence lawyers. The DPCP has yet to announce the results of that inquiry. 

It also caused dozens of Hells Angels who had already pleaded guilty, mostly to the conspiracy charge, to challenge the convictions and the long sentences they received. In the decision released on Wednesday, the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed that the Hells Angels who pleaded guilty had a case they could have appealed. However, they filed their appeals long after the deadline to file to appeal, which would have been 30 days after they were sentenced. 

Instead, the Quebec Court of Appeal agreed to significantly reduce the sentences of 35 Hells Angels. For example, Normand Marvin (Casper) Ouimet saw his 18-year sentence reduced to a 12-year prison term. Sylvain Chalifoux saw a 5-year sentence reduced to a 1-day prison term and Jacques (Israel) Émond saw a 6-year sentence reduced to a 3-month prison term.

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Paul Cherry

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