Was Hells Angel Joseph Bruce Skreptak a unwitting passenger of a car loaded with weapons, or the ring leader of something much less innocent?
The answer to that question is what Crown counsel and defence lawyers are sussing out in a court case that started this week, but has been four years in the making.
Skreptak, who was arrested around 10 p.m. Nov. 25, 2010, is charged alongside friend Cory Montemurro with five counts of possession of a restricted firearm and seven other gun-related charges.
At the time of his arrest, Mounties announced the Jeep Cherokee driven by Montemurro, was found with a cache of weapons.
The arsenal included several loaded handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a bulletproof vest, balaclavas, latex gloves, a baseball bat, an axe handle, knives, clubs, bear spray and a radio jamming device.
Mounties also indicated all the men in the car were Hells Angels, but this week Montemurro’s lawyer made a point outside the courtroom to adamantly deny the label.
Club leanings, however, had little to do with what happened on the witness stand, this week.
Skreptak, testifying in his own defence, claimed he had merely been on the hunt for a new piece of real estate that would be ideal for himself and his then pregnant wife to call home when he got tangled in something he had no knowledge of.
By his own account, Skreptak and the three other men—two of whom he claimed not to know —left Kelowna with Montemurro driving at around 4:30 p.m.
It was dark, snowy and windy outside, and once in the back seat Skreptak, recovering from a hangover, slept.
When he woke up, the truck was two minutes away from a gas station restaurant, where they were to meet two other men and have dinner.
Once done, they continued on their journey to view real estate and at around 7:30 p.m. they arrived at the property Skreptak was interested in.
It was interesting to him because it was a medicinal grow op, and the property itself had a main house and a couple of outbuildings.
First order of business was to go in the house and speak with its owner.
“We all sat and talked about property, talked about the medicinal…,” he said.
Skreptak went upstairs, into the attic, into the basement, checked out the electrical system and then he ventured into the outbuildings, where the grow op was.
When asked by Crown counsel, Skreptak noted he didn’t have a medicinal growing license, but had every intention of getting one.
Regardless, he checked out the rooms at the house, saw the plants, inspected the buds for denseness, stickiness and odour.
To do so, he put on a pair of latex gloves. As he left the room, those gloves were stashed in his pocket.
He went into the main house and smoked two joints with its owner—one that the owner rolled, another that Skreptak rolled from an approximately seven gram baggie that had been supplied to him from the house.
Skreptak said he put the baggie into his underwear, as he does “all the time,” and got ready to leave.
“I told him I was interested, and I’d be back,” he said.
Then he and the other three men departed, at around 9:30 p.m. This time he took the passenger seat.
The snow was still falling, and it wasn’t long until they found themselves tailed by a vehicle with flashing lights.
Initially, the carload of men thought it was a plow, but they soon realized it was a police vehicle and they pulled over.
“The police officer came to my side of the vehicle and asked Montemurro for registration,” he said.
When asked why they had been stopped, the police officer told them it was for speeding and that the plate was covered.
The cop went back to his cruiser, then came back a short while later and returned the papers.
They drove for awhile and were stopped by police a second time.
“This time there was a bit of anxiety,” Skreptak said. “I know I have a bag of marijuana in my pants.”
When they were pulled over, he turned to Montemurro and asked, “What’s going on Corey, do you have warrants, or what?”
As the Mountie approached the vehicle, someone from the back said, “Hide that sock, Skrep,” he recalled.
“So I grabbed that sock and put it in my sock. It was a quick reaction, my nerves were up…I had marijuana on me. It was foolish on my part.”
The police told them they were being arrested on suspicion of marijuana, so they got out of the vehicle.
When asked if he knew about the guns found in the back, or had thrown any of the guns out of the vehicle as the police approached, Skreptak said no.
It was, he said, a surprise to him that there were any weapons in the vehicle.
Skreptak as the unwitting passenger is a narrative that Crown counsel took issue with.
In an effort to shake him from that story, they pointed out flaws in what he claimed to be the motivation for shopping for real estate.
For example, he said that Salmon Arm, the location of the house, was closer to Quesnel than Kelowna.
When faced with a map, he conceded that the distance between Quesnel and Kelowna or Quesnel and Salmon Arm appeared negligible.
He was also asked why two men he said he had no knowledge of went on a long drive with him to view real estate on a snowy night. He claimed to have no understanding of their motivation.
When asked why nobody else smoked a joint as he discussed things with the house owner, Skreptak had no answer.
Skreptak was also asked why he’d move his new child and wife into a medicinal grow op, if he had yet to obtain a medicinal grow op license. To that, he said it was in the works.
Two other men, who police say are linked to the Hells Angels, were also in the vehicle when it was pulled over. The charges against them were stayed.
The trial continues through today.