By Kathy Michaels
A Kelowna-based Hells Angel and his associate each face up to seven years in prison for driving around with a heavy arsenal of weapons.
Joseph Skreptak and Cory Montemurro were convicted earlier this year on 11 weapons-related charges for an incident that happened in November 2010.
At a sentencing hearing that started Monday, Dec. 8, Crown counsel Sandra Dworkin told BC Supreme Court Justice Al Betton that the crimes committed require a significant sentence, especially when set against a backdrop of growing gun violence across the province.
“This court knows there have been a number of more public shootings, especially in B.C.,” Dworkin said, noting that death and serious injury are only “an impulse away” when one chooses to carry a loaded firearm.
And judges, she added, have publicly been criticized for taking positions that are too lenient when sentencing those caught illegally possessing loaded firearms.
Dworkin also pointed out that in cases such as Skreptak’s and Montemurro’s, “where there is no legitimate use for the arsenal,” the focus in sentencing should be on denunciation and deterrence. Rehabilitation is secondary.
Skreptak and Montemurro, along with two others who had charges against them dropped, were driving just outside Salmon Arm on a snowy winter night when a police officer pulled them over.
When the officer made his way to the vehicle, he smelled marijuana.
Dworkin said the officer noted at that time he had pulled the car over in an isolated area, there were four people in the vehicle and he was alone.
With that in mind, he made the decision to walk away from the vehicle, call in another officer and pull the vehicle over again, closer to the city limits of Salmon Arm.
When they did pull over the car a second time, a more thorough search was conducted and police found ample cause to arrest the men in the vehicle.
The first thing they found was a sawed-off shotgun in a shopping bag.
Dworkin hauled out that court exhibit at the sentencing hearing. The bag, she explained, was not used to carry the gun around.
There was a hole cut in the bottom, large enough for the gun’s barrel to poke through. Dworkin indicated the bag was merely used to disguise the weapon when it was held.
Dworkin then explained that the night the vehicle was towed to the police detachment to be searched, it offered even more evidence against the Hells Angel and his associate.
There was a cellphone jammer, body armour, walkie talkies, boxer shorts that were ripped in such a way that they could be used as a mask, nine rounds of .38-cal ammunition, knives, bear spray, shotgun shells, a bat and a loaded 9-mm CZ pistol registered to Montemurro.
At the trial, Skreptak was the only witness to speak on behalf of defence, and he said that he had no idea the weapons were in the car.
He claimed he was just looking for some real estate on the late-night tour through the Interior.
The trial judge rejected that story.
Defence lawyers Don Skogstad and Kelly Christiansen have asked Betton to consider lighter sentences.
For Skreptak, Christiansen asked for a sentence of four years.
Skogstad, who noted that there would be an appeal down the road, argued for a three-year term.
Justice Betton has been asked to wait to offer his sentence until January, so the men can have “their last Christmas with their families.”