A rushed and sloppy article from the Sherbrooke Record on the upcoming Hells Angels trials in Canada. My favorite feature of the infamous Lennoxville bunker was its location next to a convent:
Before The Fall
Crown prosecutors around the province are preparing for what could be one of the country’s biggest criminal trials aimed to wipe the Hell’s Angels of the map in Quebec.
More than 120 Hell’s Angels will stand trial in the coming months following their arrests during Operation SharQc, the massive police operation last April that rendered most of the gang’s Quebec chapters inactive.
“We can already see the impact (Operation SharQc) has had on this criminal organization,” said Claude Chartrand, the chief prosecutor with Quebec’s Bureau de lutte au crime organisé. “Hopefully, we won’t see any more Hell’s in Quebec – that’s the goal.”
Only months before the local Hell’s Angels chapter was to celebrate their 25th anniversary, almost its entire membership is behind bars. Of the gang’s Sherbrooke chapter, 32 gang members and their affiliates were arrested on a number of charges, including murder, conspiracy to murder, gangsterism and drug trafficking, all crimes committed between 1992 and 2009.
Twenty “full-patch” Hell’s Angels from Sherbrooke face first-degree murder charges in connection with 22 murders, five of which were committed in this region.
All of the 32 have heard their charges read in court but remain in custody, Chartrand said, plus another Sherbrooke affiliate who was arrested and detained in Ontario.
Four of the arrested members, Claude Berger, Bruno Dumas, François Goupil and affiliate John Coates are seeking bail in Quebec Superior Court this week, in a hearing that is subject to a media ban.
Sherbrooke prosecutor Stephanie Landry is presenting evidence against the four men.
The accused are still going through proceedings that will give way to
Quebec’s mega-trial, while prosecutors must work through pre-trial motions, which will determine what evidence can be presented, the number of witnesses and the amount of time required for the hearings.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a trial like this in Canada,” Chartrand said. “But I’m optimistic that in three years we’ll have settled most of these cases.
The trials will be heard at the Montreal-area Gouin courthouse next where work is currently underway to accommodate the number of accused, he added.
That is where Sylvain Boulanger is expected to testify. The former sergeant-at-arms in the Hell’s’ Sherbrooke chapter supplied investigators with information about an alleged vote held by the gang’s Quebec membership in July 1994.
There, Hell’s Angels voted in favour of engaging in the bloody turf war, with rival gangs such as the Rock Machine and Dark Circle, that ran through most of the 1990’s and involved the deaths of more than 160 people.
Paul Cherry, a crime reporter for the Montreal Gazette, says the upcoming trial could convict a record number of Hell’s Angels.
The only thing comparable, he said, was Operation Springtime 2001, a province-wide clean-up of the Hell’s Angels’ Quebec headquarters, which went to trial for three years.
“But Operation SharQc is significant because it’s the first time ever this many Hell’s Angels have been arrested at the same time, in the world,” Cherry said. “If most are convicted, it would essentially knock them off the map in Quebec.”
The internal rule of the Hell’s says that chapters require six members to maintain their status, Cherry said. So if everyone arrested is convicted, all of the province’s chapters would be forced to fold – at least temporarily.
The Hell’s are very official in their management, he added, noting that meetings must be held monthly and minutes from them filed to the gang’s international body.
“I have to say it’s a very creative approach that the prosecution has taken,” Cherry said. “I don’t think anyone ever saw this coming.”
Not many did. The Hell’s Sherbrooke chapter in particular was considered untouchable as it lay quiet for so many years. There hadn’t been much activity since the mid 1980’s, when the Lennoxville bunker became the scene of the infamous clubhouse murders where five members of the “North” Chapter from Laval were shot to death in a dispute over the club’s code of conduct.
Four members and an affiliate of the Hell’s Sherbrooke chapter remain at large following the April 15 police raids.
Sherbrooke police say they continue to seek the five men as well as to ensure the Hell’s Angels chapter in the region remains inactive.
Earlier this summer, Hell’s Angels members from Ontario were in town visiting, said police spokesman Martin Carrier, some of whom police identified as former affiliates to the Sherbrooke chapter.
“We’re aware of it, and we’re keeping our eye on it,” Carrier said. “But for the time being, we aren’t seeing a movement of Hell’s Angels from Ontario to the Sherbrooke area.”
The Sherbrooke chapter has, in the past, had links to the Hell’s Angel’s chapters in Thunder Bay and London, Cherry said.
“What’s to stop these guys in Ontario from coming here to pick up from where their brothers left off?” he said. “A lot of these guys who went to Ontario are no slouches, they’ve created a brand.
“The infrastructure is still there, it’s the management that has been taken out.”
The departure of a network like the Hell’s has not left a noticeable gap in the local drug market, Carrier said, noting that drug trafficking will always find its way when there is a demand.
But Carrier said Sherbrooke police did note an increase in the price of street drugs immediately after Operation SharQC.
“There are still the same people on the ground selling drugs,” he said. “And as a police force, we are still working to crack those networks just as we were when the Hell’s were still operating locally.”
Carrier, who speaks on behalf of the regional police force that participated in Operation SharQc, said it is unclear just how involved local police may be in the Hell’s’ upcoming trials. Police who made arrests during the April raid have submitted reports to prosecutors in Montreal, he said, and may be called on to testify during the trials.
By Sarah Rogers