01/25/2013 03:47 EST | Updated 03/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Member of Vancouver Hells Angels loses appeal on extortion, handgun sentence

VANCOUVER - A member of the Hells Angels in Vancouver has lost an appeal of a sentence for extortion and possession of prohibited handguns.

Jean Joseph Roland Violette was given six years after a 2009 conviction, although he was also acquitted on a charge of extortion for the benefit of a criminal organization.

His lawyer argued that in imposing the sentence, the trial judge relied too much on evidence about the Hells Angels and its East End Chapter as criminal organizations, even though Violette was acquitted of the criminal organization charge.

But the B.C. Court of Appeal has rejected the arguments, saying the judge was correct in finding that an aggravating factor in the case was that the crimes were committed on behalf a group.

"It is apparent that the judge found the appellant’s membership in these two motorcycle organizations distasteful, but that assessment is not equivalent to imposing sentence for an offence under (the criminal gang charge) as contended by the appellant," wrote Justice Mary Saunders.

Violette also said the overall sentence for the extortion charge was too long, compared to sentences given for similar crimes.

But the appeal court dismissed that argument as well.

"Criminal behaviour undertaken to advance a collective’s pride, reputation, or business is opposite to order in a civilized community, and fully justifies moving the sentence here to a somewhat higher level than has been applied in (other) cases," the judge said.

The case is related to that of John Punko and Randy Potts, who were accused of belonging to the East End Charter of Hells Angels but acquitted in the same 2009 provincial court case involving Violette, although they were convicted of drug and other charges.

The federal government then sought to prosecute them again on the gang charges as part of a federal drug case.

That prosecution ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled last year that the new federal prosecution could go ahead and ordered a new trial.