VANCOUVER - Dain Phillips was beaten unconscious and left twitching on the ground in the middle of a street in Kelowna, B.C., as his sons watched helplessly, over a childish feud they were in with a set of brothers.
On Thursday, three young men who may not have laid a hand on the 51-year-old father during the June 12, 2011, confrontation were handed prison sentences for the roles they did play in his death.
"Dain Phillips was killed by at least two members of the Hells Angels who attacked him with a hammer and a baseball bat. They rendered him unconscious in a matter of seconds," B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mark McEwan said.
"Mr. Phillips did not offer any resistance. He died the next day."
Daniel McRae, who was just 19 at the time, was sentenced to five years, less 80 days he spent in pre-trial custody. Daniel McRae was the instigator of the assault and set up the fatal meeting, the judge noted.
His 21-year-old brother, Matthew McRae, was sentenced to three and a half years less 77 days for a lesser but still culpable role. He followed the younger sibling to a confrontation he knew would bring bodily harm to the victim, the judge said.
Their friend, Anson Schell, received a three-year sentence, less 63 days for pre-trial custody.
While Schell was the least culpable of the trio, McEwan said he, too, knew that Phillips would be harmed.
"At every earlier juncture, as the seriousness of (the) intention to locate and deal with Phillips became more apparent, all three of the men before the court lent their support to it," McEwan said.
Wiretap evidence captured after the assault recorded comments from all three that "reflect a complete and utter lack of remorse," McEwan said.
In letters to the judge, the McRaes' parents pleaded for leniency.
Shelley McRae wrote that bail conditions had been "difficult for the boys," who were unable to leave the residence except for work or accompanied by a parent.
"This has been very frustrating for the boys, as many times Don and I have not been able to accompany them and there are just some places boys their age do not particularly want to be seen with their parents in tow...," she wrote.
They couldn't go shopping, she said, and couldn't have cellphones.
"I believe any behaviour displayed that day by Daniel and Matthew was out of nature and a long jail term, I feel, would be devastating to my boys both physically and mentally," she wrote.
Daniel became a father in August, she wrote to the judge.
"Daniel and Matthew are both hard-working young men that are considered respectful, polite, loving, careful and thoughtful. They make me proud."
The judge did not agree.
"A considerable amount of the rather voluminous material filed on behalf of the McRaes, including their own statements, dwells on how hard life has been on restrictive bail conditions," McEwan said.
"They do not appear to have reflected at all on the reason their conditions were so strict — that is, their implication in the wrongful death of a human being."
The letters portray a misunderstanding of who Daniel McRae truly is, starting with his parent, the judge said.
"It is clear, however, that faced with a true moral dilemma — that is whether to participate in a criminal beating or to dissociate himself — Daniel McRae did not have much of a conscience to guide him."
Their involvement was not out of character, McEwan said, but the result of a lack of character.
The whole incident began as a feud between the victim's sons and the McRae brothers. It escalated when Daniel McRae involved a friend who was a member of the Hells Angels, the judge noted.
Two members of the Hells Angels pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter and were sentenced to 15 years. Another man was acquitted.
Members of the victim's family quietly clasped hands as the judge read out the sentences.
Outside court, Crown lawyer Joe Bellows said the sentences were significant.
"They really didn't show any remorse," he said. "The evidence from the wiretap interceptions were that there was no remorse, there was no empathy or sympathy. They were laughing, they were derisive, they were dismissive of the plight of Mr. Phillips."