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Thursday, 21 January 2010

John Virgil Punko, a member of the East End chapter of the notorious motorcycle gang,

Full-patch member of the Hells Angels who pleaded guilty to trafficking in large quantities of drugs should walk free, his lawyer argued Wednesday.In December, John Virgil Punko, a member of the East End chapter of the notorious motorcycle gang, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in 50 kilograms of methamphetamines and five kilograms of cocaine.Prosecutors argued that Punko should be jailed for 16 years, reduced to 13 years, five months after calculating so-called dead time, or pre-sentencing custody.
But on Wednesday, Punko's lawyer told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask that a significant mitigating factor was that Punko was enticed into his drug dealing by the RCMP and their police agent Michael Plante.
Richard Cairns told the judge that even before Plante became a police agent who was offered up to $1 million to infiltrate the club, as a police informant Plante had been providing Punko with the narcotic painkiller Percocet, fuelling his drug addiction and making him delusional and paranoid.Cairns admitted that Punko was a willing participant and an equal partner to Plante."He took to it like a duck to water. He succumbed to his greed."Cairns said without the behaviour of Plante and the police, Punko should be sentenced to four and a half years in jail, leaving him with two years in prison after dead time.But he said considering the actions of Plante and the police,a lesser sentence is called for."What you're saying is that I should start with the four and a half years and subtract a number that reflects the court's weighing of the behaviour of Plante?" asked Leask."That's exactly right," said Cairns. "In our submission, that could amount to a significant reduction, such that Mr. Punko would walk out of the door."Prosecutor Martha Devlin disputed Cairns' characterization of the accused's state of mind and argued that the court should call Punko to testify.
Cairns said he was opposed to such a move and the judge adjourned the sentencing hearing until Monday to hear more arguments on the issue.John Virgil Punko, 43, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to produce and traffic methamphetamine, trafficking five kilograms of cocaine in 2004 and possessing $387,140 cash that was the proceeds of crime, including $142,500 from the sale of cocaine.Prosecutor Martha Devlin told the court that Punko should be given 30 months of credit for 15 months served in pre-trial custody, which would reduce the Crown's requested sentence to slightly more than 13 years.The sentencing hearing before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask is set for all this week. The defence is scheduled to make its sentencing submissions WednesdayCo-accused Randy Potts, 49, who is also a member of the East End chapter of the Hells Angels, is set to be sentenced starting next Monday at the Vancouver Law Courts.The charges against the bikers stem from a $10-million police investigation known as Project E-Pandora that targeted the East End Hells Angels.The two-year investigation, which ended in 2005 with the arrest of more than six Hells Angels in B.C. and a dozen associates, utilized a police agent named Michael Plante, who was promised $1 million to infiltrate the biker club.Plante secretly tape recorded conversations between Punko, Potts and a meth lab cook named Ryan Renaud, whom Punko suspected was also working for the UN gang and its boss Clay Roueche.
The methamphetamine was sold for $13,000 a kilogram. Plante and Punko often had discussions about "cooking" meth and distributing it at a number of locations, Plante and Punko went to various locations in Punko's vehicle including a 7-11 store, Fitness Quest gym and a White Spot restaurant in New Westminster.Punko was earlier convicted of threatening a prosecutor in another Hells Angels case.
Last summer, a jury convicted Punko, Potts and two other Hells Angels members of weapons offences and extortion.In that case, Punko was convicted of the unauthorized possession of a loaded semi-automatic pistol and sentenced to 15 months in jail, plus a consecutive sentence of four years for counselling a police agent to do damage to a Surrey home where Punko was trying to collect a large sum of money from a man.It was effectively a sentence of time served but Punko was denied bail by Leask before sentencing.
Punko has been in custody since he was arrested in July 2005 during the RCMP's Project E-Pandora investigation into the East End chapter.Last year he was sentenced effectively to time served after a jury found him guilty of weapons offences. Randy Potts, one of his co-accused in the gun case, also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking. His sentencing hearing is expected to proceed on Tuesday

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