Five alleged Hells Angels charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and more will walk free, after a Quebec judge brought their trial to a shocking and abrupt end.
On Friday morning, Superior Court Justice James Brunton ordered a stop to the jury trial because of abuses and irregularities in the Crown's handling of the case. The five bikers, who have been cleared of all charges, were among only a handful of the 156 people arrested in 2009 as part of the operation SharQc, a joint sting operation between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec provincial police, to face trial.
CTV News reported that Claude Berger, Yvon Tanguay, Sylvain and Francois Vachon, and Michel Vallieres may be released as early as today.The dismissal of the case came as the result of a motion filed mid-trial by defense lawyers, which argued that the Crown only disclosed key pieces of evidence after the trial had begun.
The defense demonstrated to the justice that they had only received vital evidence regarding the killing of Sylvain Reed — whose murder was a key allegation in the trial — in September of this year, despite a 2012 court order to compelling the prosecutors to turn over the information, according to a report in The Montreal Gazette.
The Crown failed to promptly inform the defense that one of its key witnesses, Sylvain Boulanger, a Hells Angel who flipped and provided information, had given two completely different accounts of Reed's alleged murder. Brunton ruled that the witnesses' two stories — which offer different accounts of which members of the Sherbrooke chapter of the Hells Angels took part in the killing — would have been crucial to the defense's case and that it was unacceptable for the Crown to have only disclosed them six years after the fact.
The charges against a sixth alleged gang-member, Christian Menard, were dropped in August without explanation, and 31 others were released in 2011 after a judge ruled that there had been unreasonable delays in their case.
Dozens of the over 100 people originally charged have pled guilty to lesser charges in the years since the operation SharQc mass arrests and two are still awaiting trial.
Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter: @JZBleiberg