A former gang leader who defected to the Crown at the trial involving the murders of six people is a violent, conniving and greedy man who lied when giving testimony in a calculated attempt to escape a life sentence, a defence lawyer said Tuesday.
Simon Buck described former Red Scorpions gang leader Michael Le as one of the most unreliable witnesses he’s ever encountered.
“Mr. Le was argumentative, evasive, sarcastic and impertinent,” Mr. Buck, who represents Cody Haevischer, told a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
“This is one of the worst witnesses that I’ve ever seen.”
Mr. Haevischer and Matthew Johnston are each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths, including two innocent bystanders, in a Surrey, B.C., high-rise condominium in October, 2007.
Mr. Le was also charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder, and he sat beside Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston in the prisoner’s box until he entered a surprise guilty plea last fall.
As part of a plea deal, Mr. Le agreed to testify. In exchange, the Crown dropped the murder charge and signed off on a sentence that could see Mr. Le eligible for parole by the end of this year.
The Crown’s theory has been that Mr. Le, who founded the Red Scorpions gang, and his co-leader Jamie Bacon ordered the murder of a rival drug trafficker.
The Crown alleges Mr. Haevischer, Mr. Johnston and a third man, known as Person X, went to carry out the execution, but also killed five others, including a fireplace repairmen and a neighbour, to eliminate potential witnesses.
Mr. Le testified that the murder plot was Mr. Bacon’s idea, and that he initially objected to the plan before later acquiescing. Mr. Le told the court he was shocked when he learned six people were killed.
Mr. Le claimed Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston each confessed on separate occasions.
Mr. Buck said Mr. Le repeatedly lied to minimize his role in the conspiracy, because he knew the Crown would be reluctant to offer him a deal if he admitted having a more central role in the plot.
At the same time, Mr. Buck said Mr. Le’s plea deal was dependent on him implicating Mr. Haevischer.
“He had a strong motive to lie, derived from his admitted intent to avoid a conviction of first-degree murder and life in prison,” said Mr. Buck.
Mr. Buck said Mr. Le tailored his testimony to fit in with evidence he had already seen during the trial or through Crown disclosure.
Mr. Le told the court Mr. Johnston described what happened in a meeting in a parking lot in the hours after the murders. He said Mr. Haevischer also confessed in a separate meeting in the days that followed, writing on a dry-erase board that he killed three people and that Person X killed the other three.
Mr. Buck, the defence lawyer, urged the judge to disregard Mr. Le’s evidence.
He said that without Mr. Le’s testimony, the Crown is left with a weak, circumstantial case that also relies on the testimony of other unsavoury witnesses, including Mr. Haevischer’s former girlfriend and another former gang member.
“The Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Haevischer committed any of the offences,” said Mr. Buck.
The victims included fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, and Chris Mohan, 22, whose family lived across the hall from the murder scene. Neither were connected to gangs or drugs.
The other victims were Corey Lal, who the Crown says was the intended target, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo, all of whom had links to gangs and drugs.
Mr. Bacon is charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder and is expected to stand trial later.
Person X pleaded guilty in 2009 to three counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.
Another man, Sophon Sek, is awaiting trial for manslaughter.