A prominent member of the Hells Angels in B.C. has launched a constitutional challenge of the legislation that makes it illegal to be a member of a criminal organization. Rick Ciarniello, who often speaks on behalf of the Hells Angels in B.C., has applied in B.C. Supreme Court to have all the sections of the Criminal Code relating to the anti-organized-crime legislation quashed because they are vague and overly broad.

The case will be heard Monday in B.C. Supreme Court at the Vancouver Law Courts. Ciarniello, contacted Friday, said: “I’m not at liberty to say anything [about the case].” But he maintained that the motorcycle club is not a criminal organization.

Crown prosecutor Mark Levitz said Friday that Ciarniello is also claiming that his constitutional rights have been violated because of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that found the Hells Angels is a criminal organization. That ruling is under appeal. He said Ciarniello claims that the Ontario ruling unfairly tars him with being a member of a criminal organization just because he is a member of the Hells Angels in B.C.

If Ciarniello is successful in having the law ruled unconstitutional, it will be a major blow to law enforcement efforts to crack down on organized crime across Canada.

The Vancouver hearing, set for three days, will begin with the Crown arguing that the B.C. court should not hear Ciarniello’s application because the proper forum is the Ontario courts, where Ciarniello could apply for intervenor status. “We say his complaint lies in the Ontario Court of Appeal,” Levitz said in an interview. “We’re trying to have his application summarily dismissed.” The decision before the judge will be whether Ciarniello can bring his application before a B.C. court.

Representing Ciarniello in court will be two lawyers from Toronto, Alan Gold and Anil Kapoor, as well as Vancouver criminal defence lawyer Richard Fowler. The case comes at the same time that a number of Vancouver Hells Angels members are facing trial on drugs and weapons charges. One trial being heard at the Vancouver Law Courts involves Vancouver Hells Angels member Ronaldo Lising, who is accused of possession of methamphetamine (crystal meth) for the purposes of trafficking.

Lising was on bail for cocaine trafficking when he was arrested on the latest charges along with six other local Hells Angels members during a police sweep in 2005 that involved a police agent who infiltrated the Hells Angels.

Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, October 14, 2006