Whether the Hells Angels are just a group of motorcycle enthusiasts or a criminal organization capable of “horrible things” was at issue in a Kelowna courtroom Tuesday as a justice struggled to determine how to factor in Joseph Bruce Skreptak’s membership in the club while considering his sentence for punching a father in the face while trying to extract a confession from the man’s son.
Late on Nov. 1, 2010, Skreptak, 47, went to the home of a Kelowna teen to confront him about approximately $10,000 in jewelry that had gone missing from his home.
While in the one-room apartment, Skreptak punched the youth’s father four to five times, the court heard.
As a result, the man’s left side of his face was pushed in and he suffered fractures to the bones around his eye that required surgery to insert plates, said Crown counsel Catherine Fedder.
And while the justice was told it is not known whether Skreptak punched the man out of intimidation or because he was frustrated the father was “lipping” him off, the Crown said the two teens present for the assault were intimidated by the knowledge that Skreptak was a member of the Hells Angels.
“This case is…about a grown man who chooses to use his position as a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang to bully two teenagers and a defenceless man,” said Fedder.
Rather than go to police about the missing items, he resorted to “extreme violence” to get the information he wanted, she said.
But defence lawyer Brian Jackson said Skreptak didn’t go to the police because he didn’t want to get the kids, who apparently sold the stolen jewelry for marijuana, in trouble.
“He’s the first one to admit he approached this in the wrong way,” said Jackson. “He’s embarrassed by it.”
“[But] whatever happened that night had nothing to do with the Hells Angels,” he added.
Fedder, however, argued the teens couldn’t strip away their knowledge of Skreptak’s membership and their perception of the group.
The Crown argued that the public views them as “scary individuals capable of doing horrible things,” noted Justice Allan Betton, as he questioned lawyers extensively about the Hells Angels and the role Skreptak’s membership should play in sentencing.
It’s a view the defence argues the justice should not agree with.
“You can’t tarnish anyone in an organization based on conceptions of the public that may or not be true,” said Jackson. “Just because he’s a Hells Angel, doesn’t make him….a criminal.
Jackson also argued that the courts have determined in two trials that the club is not a criminal organization.
Skreptak pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in December.
Crown is asking for a jail sentence of three years, while defence asked for a “high provincial sentence.”
Provincial jail time maxes out at two years less a day.
Defence also asked for enhanced credit for the 111 days Skreptak spent in jail and credit for the 21 months he spent on house arrest at his lakefront property, saying that one would be “hard pressed” to find more strict bail conditions in all of Canada. Crown is opposed to credit for house arrest and extra credit for time spent in jail.
Sentencing arguments are expected to continue in April.