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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Comanchero nominee Arnold Loto, through his lawyer, yesterday indicated he would plead to his role in the violence

Comanchero bikie expected to testify over deadly airport riot, court told~
ONE of the 12 Comanchero charged over a fatal brawl at Sydney Airport has signalled that he will plead guilty and may have to testify against his gang mates, a court has heard.
Comanchero nominee Arnold Loto, through his lawyer, yesterday indicated he would plead to his role in the violence that went on to claim the life of Hells Angels affiliate Anthony Zervas. The 41-year-old from Heckenberg was the last of 12 Comanchero to be charged with murder, riot and affray following the incident at the Qantas terminal last year.
Violence allegedly broke out between members of the Comanchero and Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gangs following tensions between the clubs on a Qantas flight from Melbourne on March 22 last year.
Loto's barrister Dina Yehia SC told Central Local Court yesterday that her client's case would now be "a short matter". "I anticipate there will be pleas of guilty in respect of one count of affray and one count of riot," she said.
Magistrate John Favretto was later told that it was Ms Yehia's "expectation . . . that he will now be called (as a witness) in the Crown case".
While the pleas have not been formally entered, Ms Yehia asked that the matter be adjourned to Friday for that to occur formally, when it would then be remitted to the District Court for sentence. The murder charge is expected to be withdrawn upon Loto formally entering those pleas of guilty.
Fifteen men are now facing charges - including three Hells Angels - and will front a committal hearing later this year but a fragmented argument is under way over witnesses required for cross-examination.
But as legal argument heated up in the case yesterday, a magistrate cast some doubt on a key part of the evidence relating to the charge of riot.
Barrister Avni Djemal, for the deceased's brother Peter Zervas, argued that the riot charge was dependant on at least 12 of the accused acting with "a common purpose" to commit unlawful violence.
He said a crucial element of his client's claim of self-defence to be explored at committal was that any "common purpose" between the rival gangs was preposterous.
Magistrate Favretto agreed that "there may be an inherent problem with riot".
But he said that was a matter to be explored at a later time.
The remaining matters will return to court next Tuesday.

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