Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gang member convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in speedy criminal trial

A Manitoba Hells Angels associate who didn’t want to be seen as pleading guilty to gang-related charges was instead found guilty Monday after what was likely the fastest trial in judicial history.
The unusual hearing lasted just a few minutes and included Crown and defence lawyers calling no witnesses and making no submissions. The only evidence was an agreed statement of facts which was provided to the judge for review days earlier.
Queen’s Bench Justice Glenn Joyal had no choice but to make the obvious ruling, paving the way for a sentencing hearing to begin almost immediately. Raymond Brown, 44, was then given 51 months in prison (4 years and 3 months), in addition to five months of time already served, under a joint-recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. His offences include participating in a criminal organization, conspiracy to launder proceeds of crime and trafficking marijuana.
Prosecutor Chris Mainella said a lot of gang members – especially high-ranking ones such as Brown – don’t want to be seen as admitting responsibility and would rather put justice officials to the test of proving their case. He said Preston’s way of dealing with his case is similar to the “No Contest” plea that exists in the United States.
Brown was one of 33 people arrested last winter as part of “Project Divide,” in which police used a secret agent to infiltrate the gang by using a former Hells associate as a paid informant. He is the 13th to deal with his charges..
Brown has been a member of the Zig Zag Crew – the “support” club for the Hells Angels – since 2006 and has previously served as president, court was told. He was caught on audio and video surveillance in June 2009 arranging for a three-pound marijuana deal during a lunch meeting with the agent at McDonald’s. The drugs and $8,400 cash were then exchanged later that day in a parking lot near an outdoor inner-city swimming pool.
Brown was also overheard by police barking out orders to several other Zig Zag members, which includes collecting monthly individual dues of $150 and paying a monthly gang fee to the Hells Angels of $1000.
“Basically the Zig Zag Crew were buying a criminal licence from the Hells Angels,” said Mainella.
Brown has a minor, dated criminal record and has previously worked as a commercial trucker. He is the father of four children, aged four to 19.

Agreed facts are the only evidence as gang member found guilty
A Winnipeg gang member and drug dealer was sentenced to prison Tuesday after an unusual trial in which the only evidence was an agreed statement of facts.
Raymond Bruce Brown, a former president of the Zig-Zag Crew street gang, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in marijuana but not guilty to conspiracy to participate in a criminal organization and conspiracy to launder proceeds of crime.
Brown, 44, stood trial on the conspiracy charges. Justice Glenn Joyal heard no witnesses.
“The accused is accepting the facts as laid out by the Crown ... and is not calling any evidence,” defence lawyer Neil Kravetsky told Joyal. “I have been instructed not to make any submissions to you. (Brown) understands the consequences of his actions.”
Joyal said the evidence against Brown was overwhelming and found him guilty of conspiring to recruit new members to the Zig-Zag Crew and conspiring to launder drug money on behalf of the Hells Angels.
Joyal sentenced Brown to a total of 56 months in prison, minus credit for five months time served.
Brown was one of nearly three dozen people arrested late last year as part of a year-long investigation dubbed Project Divide. Nearly all of those arrested were members or associates of the Zig-Zag Crew street gang, the so-called “puppet club” of the Manitoba Hells Angels.
Police surveillance caught Brown making a deal to sell Zig-Zagger turned paid police agent Michael Satsatin three pounds of marijuana for $8,400.
Court heard Brown didn’t join the gang until 2006 or 2007, when he was already 40 years old. His only prior drug conviction was in the mid-1980s when he was arrested for selling one gram of marijuana at Oktoberfest.

I disagree with 4 years in prison. How will prison help this man? It will not serve any purpose. Based on the offences for which this man was convicted of, it does not appear that he is a major danger to society and should not be imprisoned for that length of time, especially since his minor, criminal record is dated and only consisted of one marijuana offence and the fact that he has a family. Prison is a negative environment filled with negative influences of gangs and drugs. It does not facilitate rehabilitation. Prisons also fail at addressing the root causes of crime and especially, of why individuals join gangs, as there are many underlying factors. Marijuana use should be legalized and regulated. It is no more harmful than alcohol and legalization would help free up the courts, reduce prison overcrowding and remove drugs from the hands of violent gang members. This man should have received a 2 year conditional sentence in the community, with community service, employment assistance, etc. 

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