It’s been more than a dozen years since Red Scorpion gangster Kevin LeClair was gunned down after leaving Browns’s Social House in Langley’s Thunderbird Centre mall. The UN gang hitman convicted of killing him was back in court Tuesday trying to get a new trial.
Here’s my story:
Wed May 12 2021
Byline: Kim Bolan
Source: Vancouver Sun
United Nations gang hitman Cory Vallee should get a new trial because the judge who convicted him erred in assessing the credibility of former gangsters-turned-Crown witnesses, Vallee’s lawyer said Tuesday.
And Eric Gottardi told the B.C. Court of Appeal that the trial judge also failed to fully recognize the impact on Vallee’s defence of the late disclosure of a video that showed him near the Langley spot where Red Scorpion Kevin LeClair was gunned down in 2009.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon convicted Vallee in June 2018 of first-degree murder in LeClair’s public slaying, as well as conspiracy to kill his Red Scorpion gang-mates Jamie, Jarrod and Jonathan Bacon.
The former North Vancouver garbage man was sentenced to two life terms.
Gottardi said the convictions should be overturned on several grounds, including the late disclosure and lack of scrutiny of the unsavoury ex-gangster witnesses known only as A, B, C and D.
Leading up to the trial, there was no evidence linking Vallee to the murder except for statements made to police by B and C, he told Justices Mary Saunders, Patrice Abrioux and Peter Voith.
“And there was very limited evidence of his association with members of the UN gang,” Gottardi said. “Midway through the trial, the Crown disclosed the video which depicted the appellant and (Witness B) at or near the scene of the crime, the murder of Kevin LeClair, just three hours before the shooting.”
Gottardi said that the late disclosure “fundamentally changed the legal evidentiary landscape the defence had to deal with.”
He said the defence lawyers likely would have made different decisions on behalf of Vallee in the early stages of the trial if they had known about the video.
For example, the defence admitted the existence of the murder conspiracy, Gottardi said, which is something they might not have conceded if they had the video at the time.
When they finally got the video, Vallee’s lawyers asked for a mistrial and a stay, but neither was granted. Instead Dillon allowed an adjournment so that the defence could consider “the option to recall witnesses.”
“We submit here on appeal that the trial judge erred in failing to recognize how the new disclosure prejudiced the appellant and why the remedy provided was insufficient,” Gottardi said.
As for former UN members who became Crown witnesses, Dillon erred in improperly assessing their credibility, given their admitted criminality and the benefits they received for co-operating, he said.
The judge was tougher in her assessment of Peter Redekopp, a former associate of B and C, who testified that he could not provide an alibi for C for the day of the murder, as C had claimed.
“This evidence significantly bolstered the defence theory that was the real perpetrator,” Gottardi said, noting that Dillon rejected Redekopp’s evidence in part because of his criminal history.
“We say that she applied to a different standard of scrutiny to the evidence of a defence-oriented witness than she did to the Crown witnesses … and we say this approach was fundamentally unfair.”
The appeal is scheduled to last four days.
When Dillon sentenced Vallee, she said it was necessary to send a strong message “that gang warfare on the streets of our communities will not be tolerated.”
“This killing was performed execution style in daylight in the parking lot of a busy shopping mall. He was the designated hitman or shooter on this mission and performed his role to the full with an automatic weapon,” Dillon said.
“These events were unbelievable, movie-like, to citizens not expecting to find themselves in a gang war zone.”
More than a decade after the Le-Clair shooting, both the UN and Red Scorpion gangs continue to be part of the Lower Mainland gang conflict.
On Sunday, UN gangster Karman Grewal was shot to death at Vancouver International Airport. On April 21, Todd Gouwenberg, a long-time UN member, was gunned down at the Langley Sportsplex, just 600 metres from where LeClair was killed.