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In a specially modified courtroom in Montreal, a motorcycle gang chieftain named “Mom” is on trial on charges that he ordered the murders of two prison guards. In a nearby courtroom, jury selection is almost complete for a separate trial of 17 other bikers — including Mom’s 27-year-old son — on charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy to commit murder and engaging in a criminal enterprise. And another trial is scheduled to start soon, with an additional dozen bikers facing charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, related to the deaths of 13 members of a competing motorcycle club. The trials in Montreal are the latest fallout from a bloody turf war in Quebec between rival motorcycle gangs that has left more than 150 people dead and, according to prosecutors, spurred a conspiracy by the Quebec chapter of the Hells Angels to kill judges, police officers, prosecutors and prison guards in order to disrupt the Canadian judicial system. While no judges or prosecutors were ever killed or injured by the Angels, or its former chief rival gang, the Rock Machine, there have been murders of more than 20 innocent civilians, as well as numerous non-fatal assaults, reports Randall Richmond, deputy chief prosecutor for organized crime for the province of Quebec. And fear of possible intimidation of jurors in trials of these bikers has led to the construction of one courtroom and the remodeling of another to prevent any civilians other than credentialed members of the media from seeing the jurors, says France Charbonneau, lead prosecutor in the ongoing murder trial of the leader of the Angels, Maurice “Mom” Boucher. The gang war began in 1994 as the Quebec chapter of the Angels, known as the Nomads, fought for control of the drug trade in Canada with another gang, the Rock Machine. While Canada may seem, by U.S. standards, a peaceful, pastoral nation, motorcycle gangs are a major source of concern to law enforcement agencies there, says Richmond. These gangs, he says, began forming in the 1970s, “when a lot of the motorcycle clubs started affiliating with United States clubs,” such as the Hells Angels and the Outlaws. These gangs today conduct much of the drug trade in Canada, selling cocaine, marijuana, hashish and, to a lesser extent, heroin. While dozens of motorcycle gang members have died in the battles so far, a significant number remain, Richmond adds. As of January 2002, there were 35 chapters of the Angels, with a total of 600 members, in Canada. The gang war has nearly wiped out the Rock Machine, but its members are moving into another gang, the Bandidos, which now has five chapters in the country. A third gang, the Outlaws, has 90 members nationwide. As the war between the Nomads and the Rock Machine heated up and law enforcement began responding to the rising toll of murders and assaults, the Nomads decided to target nonbikers, says Charbonneau. According to the prosecution, she adds, Boucher developed a strategy of using lower-level gang members to assassinate judges, prosecutors, police and prison guards. “He was trying to upset the justice system and trying to stop the informants,” who were giving evidence to Quebec police and prosecutors. “For Boucher, informants could kill or destabilize his organization. He wanted to protect himself and his brothers, so he decided that, ‘If I can get them to do such important crimes, they couldn’t be informants.’ He was sure the Crown would not want to deal with these men,” and would not accept them as informants, Charbonneau contends. By ordering or encouraging his underlings to commit these murders, she says, “Boucher would make sure they were loyal to him and it would buy their silence.” In June 1997, Diane Lavigne, a guard at the Bordeaux prison in Montreal, was driving home from work when she was shot and killed. In September 1997, guard Pierre Rondeau was driving an empty transport bus en route to pick up inmates at a Quebec prison when the bus was ambushed. Rondeau was shot four times and died almost instantly. Another guard, Robert Corriveau, was a passenger in the bus, but wasn’t hit. In late 1997, Stephane Gagne, an associate of Boucher’s, was arrested and charged with shooting Lavigne and Rondeau. Soon after, Gagne pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Boucher. MOM’S FIRST TRIAL In 1998, Boucher went on trial the first time, charged with murdering Lavigne and Rondeau and attempting to murder Corriveau. Gagne, the prosecution’s star witness, testified that Boucher had ordered the killings of the guards, that he had been promoted within the gang after the shootings, and that following the murders Boucher told him of plans to assassinate judges, prosecutors and police officers. Despite these accusations, however, Boucher was acquitted. In Canada, however, an acquittal can be appealed. And in 2000, the first jury’s verdict was reversed and a new trial ordered. The Quebec Court of Appeal determined that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury that it could not convict Boucher on the basis of an informant’s testimony because there was no confirmatory evidence. The appellate court agreed with the prosecution that there was evidence supporting Gagne’s testimony. In April 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the reversal. Regina v. Boucher, No. 2828 (Can. Sup. Ct.). As the Crown began preparing for the retrial, says Charbonneau, there were concerns by prosecutors that any jury selected might be subjected to the same type of intimidation as occurred in the first trial of Mom Boucher. Charbonneau was called in late in the first trial to assist the prosecutor. She handled the appeal and is lead prosecutor in the retrial. In this first trial, she says, members of the Hells Angels and affiliate gangs came to the courtroom to watch the trial. “They were even buying their places,” giving money to people who had been in line for seats in the courtroom. Throughout the trial, she says, “We could see them sitting in the courtroom making faces at the jurors.” The bikers, she recalls, “were not wearing their colors, but the jurors knew who they were.” As Boucher came into the courtroom, she says, his associates “would salute Boucher, by smiling at him or nodding to him, just to make sure the jury knew they were connected to Boucher.” As the trial progressed, these members of the gang “would make deep eye contact with the members of the jury.” Bikers also reportedly followed jurors to restaurants and their homes. “I can’t tell you that they acquitted him because of the fear,” she says, but this time around the Crown wanted to make sure there were no attempts at menacing the jurors. For this trial, the courtroom has been modified. The jury is on one side of the courtroom, “and a big frosted window separates the jury from the rest of the public.” The jurors, she adds, “can’t see the unknown public, only accredited journalists.” Nor can any of the spectators, other than journalists, see the jurors. The jurors are identified only by number, she adds. As the Crown pursued its case against Boucher following the acquittal, the gang war continued and more innocent victims were injured or killed, says Richmond. In September 2000, for instance, a crime reporter for a Montreal newspaper, Michel Auger, was shot six times — in retaliation for articles he had written about the gangs. Auger survived, but the attack spurred the organization of a special team of prosecutors aimed at going after the biker gangs. A police task force had been organized previously and these elements united in their efforts. In March 2001, Richmond adds, “the investigation finally bore fruit and we had a major roundup of Hells Angels members and associates.” A total of 101 people were arrested. Thus far, 66 have pleaded guilty to various charges and the rest are either on trial or awaiting trial. A ‘HYSTERICAL REACTION’? For the other trials, another courtroom has been built outside of the gates of the Bordeaux prison in Montreal. The new courtroom has been constructed to prevent the defendants or their allies from seeing or intimidating the jurors, and to prevent the defendants from escaping, says Edward Greenspan of Toronto’s Greenspan, Henin & White, who represents one of the defendants scheduled for a later trial. But, Greenspan adds, the new courtroom is inherently prejudicial to the defendants. “The courthouse is an extremely large room, probably the length of half an American football field,” he reports. The judge is at one end of the courtroom and near the judge is the jury box of 12 jurors. “There are no alternates,” Greenspan says. “In our system, if there is an illness or a disqualification, you can have a verdict with 10 jurors. “The police are in the front row, sitting ahead of the prosecutors, protecting the jurors. There are three or four rows for the press. Then on the other side of the courtroom is a very large glassed-in bulletproof wall with three compartments.” The defendants will be housed in these locked compartments, he says. “It’s a hermetically sealed prisoners’ box,” with the defendants walled off from their lawyers as well as the jurors. “If you have to converse with your client, the court has to adjourn,” Greenspan says. The courtroom, he charges, “was a hysterical reaction to this group.” Boucher’s defense attorney, Quebec City’s Jacques Larochelle, declined to comment on his client’s response to the charges. But Boucher has pleaded not guilty and in the trial, Larochelle has fiercely attacked the government’s star witness, Gagne. In particular, on cross-examination, Larochelle has highlighted the deal that Gagne made with prosecutors that will give Gagne a shot at parole.

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