Pubdate: Fri, 06 Aug 2010
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Yolande Cole


Appeal Court: Deja Vu As Panel Again Sets Aside Sentencing Of Gang Members
By Same Judge

For the second time this year, the B.C. Court of Appeal has set aside
a judgment by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask involving the
Hells Angels.

In a written judgment released Thursday by the Court of Appeal, Hells
Angel member John Punko was given a sentence more than four times the
length of an original 14-month imprisonment ordered by Leask in March.

The previous December, Punko and another Hells Angel member, Randy
Potts, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to trafficking in multi-kilograms
of methamphetamines and large amounts of cocaine.

Federal prosecutors appealed Leask's ruling after he sentenced Punko
to 14 months' jail and Randy Potts to a year in custody.

The Crown had sought a 16-year sentence for Punko and a 12-year
sentence for Potts.

The three appeal judges set aside the 14-month term and sentenced
Punko to eight years, which, after a 34-month credit for time served
in jail, means he will serve a further five years and two months.

"In my opinion, the sentencing judge made three errors in principle
that resulted in Mr. Punko's 14-month sentence being demonstrably
unfit," wrote Justice David Tysoe in the 2-1 majority ruling.

Tysoe ruled that Leask had erred in determining an appropriate
sentence for the two drug offences by treating the involvement of a
police agent as justifying a reduced sentence, and in ruling that the
sentences for the meth and cocaine offences should be served

In his reasons, dissenting Justice Kenneth Smith, who recommended
upgrading Punko's sentence to only 26 months on the methamphetamine
charge, said that the harm caused by substances such as
methamphetamine "to the basic health and life of people in the
community" demanded that courts impose sentences that "denounce and

Police agent Michael Plante infiltrated the motorcycle club during the
RCMP's Project E-Pandora investigation of the East End chapter of the
Hells Angels.

In his original sentence, Leask said Plante did not act unlawfully and
that his conduct was approved by police, but he said the fact that
Plante supplied Punko and Potts with the painkilling drug Percocets
was a mitigating factor.

He also treated the fact that they were not involved in
meth-trafficking prior to meeting the police officer as a mitigating

The appeal judges ruled there was no conduct on Plante's part that
would justify reduced sentences for Punko.

The judges ruled that the police attempt to infiltrate the
organization "would have been futile unless their agent participated
in the criminal activities engaged in by other members of the

Justice Tysoe said that, in his view, "a right-thinking Canadian would
accept that such tactics are necessary" to investigate organizations
believed to be criminal.

In March, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned another ruling by Leask
after he acquitted alleged Hells Angel associate Nima Ghavami of
drug-trafficking charges.

Leask found that there was an unreasonable delay in Ghavani's case
going to trial. A new trial was ordered after the appeal court found
Leask had erred. 
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