(This story originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2016 edition of the Chilliwack Times)
A long trial, lack of court time along with defence scheduling, means it could be years before a local crime syndicate alleged to be dealing drugs in B.C.’s north will see justice.
Five members of the Fraser Valley crime cell had a court appearance in Chilliwack Provincial Court Aug. 29, one that was attended by lawyers for two of the men.
Crown told the court it had been ready to arraign for the previous four court appearances. Defence suggested a trial may not be possible until 2018.
In February of this year, the province’s gang task force announced 50 more criminal charges were approved against five Chilliwack men in connection with a search warrant a year earlier that uncovered eight firearms, prohibited magazines, silencers, more than $200,000 in cash and more than $2 million worth of drugs, including a large quantity of fentanyl.
Charged was Jordan Anthony Ramos, aged 29; Dana Mikael Hendrick Schaper-Kotter, 25; Darcy Horvath, 23; Lucas Benajmin Thiessen, 22; and Kyle Harrower, 25.
The complex inter-jurisdictional case led by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC) began in August 2014 into the Chilliwack-based gang dealing drugs in the north.
An alleged drug runner was nabbed in May 2015 in Fort St. John. Then in December, CFSEU-BC announced charges were approved against Clayton Archie Eheler, 33; Raymond Morrissey, 59; and Mathew Jordan Thiessen, 29.
Also charged in the case, as announced in May 2016, are Andrew Vithna Va, 27; and Le Hoang-Duy Vo, 21.
In court in Chilliwack Aug. 29, lawyers for two of the five men charged in February, and acting on behalf of the other three, agreed with Crown’s estimate of a need for a three-week trial but added they would need approximately two weeks extra to argue their clients’ Charter rights were breached.
Further delaying the proceedings was a note from lawyer Ken Beatch who represents one of the men, saying he had no court availability until February 2018.
Lawyers for the other four men said they could be available for trial in 2017.
Judge Edna Ritchie said a pre-trial conference three months in advance of the trial was recommended and sent the parties to the judicial case manager.