Canada - MONTREAL – Dozens of Hells Angels have refused to enter guilty pleas to charges included on a new indictment filed in Operation SharQc.
The indictment was filed on Tuesday in an effort to regroup all 51 alleged Hells Angels charged in the investigation. It came as a result of a series of guilty pleas made last week.
But on Thursday, almost all of the accused appearing on the indictment refused to enter pleas, calling the indictment illegal.
Defence lawyer Nellie Benoit, speaking on behalf of all those who refused to enter a plea, said it is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Superior Court Justice Martin Vauclair interpreted the stance as not guilty pleas and carried the case over to Sept 27.
Benoit, representing Daniel Beaulieu, a member of the Hells Angels' Quebec City chapter, was the first to address Vauclair during a hearing at the Gouin courthouse. She said Beaulieu did not want to enter a plea to the new indictment – which includes a conspiracy to commit murder charge and eight first-degee murder charges – because he considers it a violation of his Charter rights, including the right to a speedy trial.
Most of the more than 40 accused who appeared before Vauclair were first arrested in Operation SharQc in April 2009.
After Benoit spoke, almost every other defence lawyer agreed with her. Some added that the new indictment creates a new case and therefore complicates things because their clients will have to re-apply for legal aid in order to fund their defences.
Some of the accused who do not have lawyers appeared to be caught off-guard by the surprise development but they told Vauclair they would go along with the group.
Arguments on the constitutionality of the indictment will be heard at a later date, after the defence files its motion.
Because it is technically a new case, a new judge might be assigned to it, a point Vauclair clarified for the defence lawyers. Both Vauclair and Justice James Brunton have presided over all proceedings in Operation SharQc for the past three years.
Forty-six of the 51 alleged Hells Angels who were placed on the new indictment had court dates before Vauclair on Thursday.
The other five appeared before Brunton on Tuesday and saw their long-awaited trial be cancelled because of the new indictment.