Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in Surrey Six killings
Red Scorpions gang leader also admits to counselling murder in separate case
One of B.C.'s most notorious gangsters pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to his role in the murderous conspiracy that resulted in the Surrey Six killings nearly 13 years ago.
Jamie Bacon appeared in B.C. Supreme Court through a video link and spoke only a few words as Justice Kathleen Ker asked if he was voluntarily pleading guilty to conspiring to commit the murder of Corey Lal in 2007, and if he understood the charge. Bacon answered yes to both questions.
Seconds later, the Red Scorpions gang leader also pleaded guilty to counselling someone to commit the murder of an associate in 2008.
The pleas bring to a conclusion both open cases against Bacon and provide at least some more accountability for the province's deadliest gangland slaying — a case that has dogged the B.C. judicial system ever since the first 911 call went out for police to attend the scene of a mass killing on Oct. 19, 2007.
A 'sweetheart deal'
Bacon is to be sentenced later this month at what is expected to be an emotional hearing as the relatives of his victims have their chance to confront him directly.
The Crown indicated that it will be seeking a sentence of 18 years in relation to the Surrey Six charge, to be served concurrently with a 10-year sentence for the other crime.
With credit for the time he has already served behind bars since his arrest in 2009, Bacon's lawyers estimate that he could be free in five to six years.
Kevin Westell, one of Bacon's lawyers, called the deal a "carefully crafted joint submission proposal involving the Crown and the defence."
He wouldn't speak about any remorse that his client might feel but said the submission at sentencing would "speak for itself."
Even before hearing the details of the plea agreement, Eileen Mohan, whose son Christopher was one of two innocent victims killed at the high-rise building where the Surrey Six killings took place, called the arrangement a "sweetheart deal."
"You have no idea how much loss we have occurred. They stole Christopher and they stole our lives, too," Mohan told CBC News before the hearing.
"It took him 13 years to plead guilty, and 13 years we've been running around in circles. Had he been genuine, then he would have pleaded guilty a long time ago."
A hit that spiralled out of control
The Crown will stay a first-degree murder charge that was part of the original indictment against Bacon once he is sentenced.
At Thursday's hearing, Crown prosecutor Bob Wright entered two short summaries of Bacon's crimes.
In 2007, the Red Scorpions operated an illegal drug business throughout the Lower Mainland, a region in which Lal also dealt drugs. According to the first of the two summaries, a dispute arose between Bacon, Lal and someone known as Person Y, which resulted in Lal being told he had to pay a $100,000 tax.
"Mr. Lal did not pay the tax," the summary says.
"At a Red Scorpion meeting that same evening, Mr. Bacon told his fellow Red Scorpion gang members that Mr. Lal had to be killed because of his failure to pay the tax."
The court document said Person Y was supposed to kill Lal, but he pulled out and Bacon instead sent three other people to kill Lal at his "stash house." Once they arrived, they killed Lal, his brother, two associates and two innocent bystanders, including Christopher Mohan.
Bacon committed the other offence more than a year later, in December 2008.
According to the summary of that crime, a drug dealer told Bacon that an associate named Dennis Karbovanec was "wasting time doing pills and sleeping with girls, and this was affecting Mr. Bacon's business."
Bacon and two others hatched a plan that would have seen Karbovanec killed on New Year's Eve 2008, during a grow-operation ripoff that was actually a setup. But Karbovanec escaped with a bullet wound to his lower back and an abrasion to the right side of his scalp.
Case tested justice system
The guilty plea in the Surrey Six case brings to a conclusion a criminal matter that has tested the legal system for years.
A total of six people have been charged in relation to the murders. Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston were given life sentences in 2014 after being convicted of six counts of first-degree murder. Both men are appealing.
Another killer — known by court order as Person X — pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Two others pleaded guilty to breaking and entering to help the killers gain access to the suite and of obstructing justice by destroying evidence.
Michael Le, who was one of the founders of the Red Scorpions, pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for testimony against Haevischer and Johnston.
Eileen Mohan said she was given no word of the plea deal and only spoke with the Crown about it after news of the arrangement emerged following a court appearance earlier this week.
"That is why I was very upset — once bitten, twice shy," she said. "I know the process and when these people cut sweetheart deals like this."
Police conduct questioned
Bacon has been in jail since he was arrested in connection with the case in 2009.
Pretrial proceedings in the Surrey Six case took place over four and a half years, after which a stay was entered because the judge in the case found that police conduct during the investigation "contravened fundamental notions of justice and undermined the integrity of the justice system to the degree [the judge] could not permit the case to be tried."
The Crown appealed, and the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the stay in May, ordering Bacon's trial to resume — and setting the stage for the deal that resulted in this week's plea.
The Appeal Court's abbreviated reasons detail the challenges police faced in trying to bring charges against Bacon and his associates. The investigation involved more than 1,300 officers and 80 police informers who were up against "a disciplined organization that used tactics to defeat police techniques."
In allowing the trial to proceed, the Appeal Court judges concluded that while some abuses of process had occurred, there weren't enough to justify denying the public the right to see Bacon's guilt or innocence determined in a court of law.
Bacon's sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 23, and the judge said she'd like to see him attend court in person.
Mohan said she'll attend the hearing and deliver a victim impact statement. She said it's her only chance to make her voice heard.
"We have to pick up the pieces and live each day as respectfully and as kindly as we can," she said.
"Because we don't want to ... become monsters like the Bacons."