BRITISH COLUMBIA

Sentencing in B.C. gang case set for December as defence attempts to toss case

10/10/2014 04:51 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - A sentencing hearing for two gang members convicted in a mass killing in the Vancouver area may happen in early December, but only if the court refuses to hear a defence application to have the case tossed out.

Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston were convicted earlier this month of six counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy in a shooting that left six people dead, including two innocent bystanders, in Surrey, B.C., in 2007.

The murder convictions carry an automatic sentence of life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years, but a sentencing hearing would allow the families of the victims to provide victim-impact statements to the court.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge revealed her verdict last week after a trial that began in the fall of 2013, but the sentencing has been delayed as the defence seeks to have the charges stayed. Defence lawyers plan to allege abuse of process, in part over how the RCMP handled a confidential informant.

The Crown will attempt to block the defence application in a hearing set for late October, and if that's successful, Crown counsel Mark Levitz said the sentencing hearing could happen in the first week of December. He said the hearing could be as short as half a day.

If the defence application is allowed to proceed, the judge will instead hear the abuse-of-process allegations over three weeks in December.

Judge Catherine Wedge has approved the appointment of two outside lawyers to deal with allegations related to the confidential informant. Parts of the upcoming hearings are expected to be held in secret.

Six people were found dead in a highrise condo in Surrey in October 2007.

The trial heard the killings began as a plot hatched by the leaders of the Red Scorpions gang to murder Corey Lal, a rival drug trafficker, but that five others were also killed to eliminate potential witnesses.

Among the victims were fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and Lal’s neighbour Chris Mohan, who had no connection to gangs or drugs. Also killed were Lal's brother Michael, Eddie Narong, and Ryan Bartolomeo.

The judge concluded Haevischer, Johnston and a third man known only as Person X went to the condo to carry out the murder. Person X previously pled guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

The trial initially began with three people in the prisoners' dock: Haevischer, Johnston and former Red Scorpions leader Michael Le.

Le entered a surprise guilty plea last year to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder and received a sentence of 12 years, reduced to three after time served. He could be eligible for parole by the end of this year.

In exchange, Le testified against Haevischer and Johnston, though the judge rejected much of his evidence.

Alleged Red Scorpions co-leader Jamie Bacon is charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder in connection with the same murders and is expected to stand trial later.