Nfld. & Labrador

Vikings MC member turned RCMP informer names Al Potter as stabber

He was a full patch member of the Vikings Motorcycle Club. After he left, he signed on to give information to the RCMP.

'You were a member of a motorcycle gang without a … licence or motorcycle?'

The undercover police agent testified while accompanied by two armed police officers at Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Protected by sheriffs officers and two plainclothes, armed police officers — one of whom carried a large army-style duffle bag on his arm — the witness walked into the courtroom and came within metres of a man with which he once shared an inner circle.

On Wednesday, the 39-year-old man, now in witness protection and whose identity is covered by a publication ban, testified against Al Potter, who's standing trial for the 2014 stabbing death of Dale Porter.

The dull hum of florescent lights in the courtroom only added to the tension which comes with one man testifying against a former ally.

"I was asked to be a prospect by Shane Leonard and that was back in 2014," the man said, wearing jeans, a hooded sweater and sunglasses on his head.

"I was given a vest … and after that I received my full patch. It was in late July 2014."

The informer wore green and white, he said, which were the colours of the club before "they became an offshoot of the Hells Angels and that explains the red and white."

But the story he told — one he was compensated for by the RCMP — was chipped away at by the defence, with questions surrounding his credibility, his story and the real reason for him speaking to police.

As a prospect for the Vikings Motorcycle Club, which he said had a foothold on Cabot Street in downtown St. John's, the man said he did what he was told.

"They knew that I pretty much had to do whatever I had to do. That's part of the prospect [process], you're kind of a servant of the club," he explained.

"If you're asked to do something by an officer of the club or even a full-patch member you really can't refuse."

The club had a president, vice-president, treasurer and sergeant-at-arms, he explained — at times sounding more like a Hollywood script than a local court case.

At the time, Shane Leonard was club president, but the police agent said, it wasn't the younger Leonard calling the shots.

"It was really Vince Leonard Sr. who was the boss. He really ran things and Shane was kinda just the face of the club while Vince dictated the goings on."

Vince Leonard Sr. had two sons and a nephew in the club, the police agent said.

Al Potter confessed, agent claims

As a prospect and full-patch member of the Vikings, the agent said he sold drugs for Vince Leonard Sr., Vince Leonard Jr., Al Potter and Wayne Johnson. At times, he used the drug supply for his own purposes.

He said he started selling drugs for Potter in early July 2014, shortly after Porter was stabbed 17 times in the driveway of his home in North River, Conception Bay North.

But by October 2014, the agent, who also has a criminal record, said he had had enough of the Vikings Motorcycle Club.

"Well, I was seeing the people that had committed the murder … getting away with it, so I didn't agree with it because the man [Porter] didn't do anything to even have to deal with the Vikings, so I didn't understand why what happened happened."

The witness testified that the Vikings Motorcycle Club switched from green and white colours to red and white after they became an "offshoot of the Hells Angels." (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The former club member claims he had gotten the story of what happened early on the morning of June 29, 2014 directly from Potter himself, while the two shared pizza at Potter's home on Cabot Street.

"He had told me what had happened the night he was out around the bay, that he was to a club and a certain man was making fun of the colours of the club and stuff like that," he told the jury, while some took notes and others were transfixed by his testimony.

"He told me that he was told by [a second man] that you can't let [Porter] get away with that, and we have to do something about him disrespecting you."

According to the police agent, Potter and the second man, whose identity is covered by a publication ban and is also charged in relation to Porter's death, "buddied up" to Porter to gain his trust.

"When they got out of the car, Al and [the second man] proceeded to attack Mr. Porter and Al had stabbed him and [the second man] kicked and punched him when he was down."

The defence, however, took aim at this story, questioning the validity of it.

"Now during this conversation [with Potter], you weren't wearing a wire at this point in time, you weren't working as an agent and no one else was in the house," lawyer Jon Noonan pointed out.

Noonan said that the man previously testified that Potter was a heavy drug user, and at this point, was using crack and wasn't sleeping. He also suggested that Potter was having hallucinations around the same time after using LSD.

"All those hallucinations were in that time period, but it was after that conversation when things got at their worst," the man replied.

Knife thrown in the ocean

Upon direct questioning from the Crown, the witness recalled a time he was instructed to pick up Leonard Sr.'s green Lincoln town car which was on Cabot Street.

He and other club members then proceeded to the Vikings clubhouse in Cupids Crossing — the first and last time he'd be there.

"I got back into Wayne Johnson's truck in the backseat with Shane and Wayne and we drove back to St. John's to Cabot Street," he testified, occasionally taking breaks to sip water as Potter watched on from the prisoner's box.

"Shane ran in the house to speak to his father and he came back out and we all proceeded to drive to Shea Heights."

Leonard Sr. passed the knife to Shane Leonard, he said, "He was trying to conceal it. I think it was wrapped in a dishcloth."

"I could tell it was some type of knife."

Al Potter places his pointer and middle finger in a V on the left side of his chest, as he's done during previous court appearances at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

They drove toward the ocean, where all three men exited the truck and walked towards the shoreline.

"Shane Leonard walked closest to the coastline and threw a black-handled knife in the ocean," the police agent testified.

He claims it was Al Potter's knife and that he had seen it before at Vince Leonard Sr.'s cabin on Witless Bay Line, when Potter put the knife in a case on his belt.

Shown the knife already presented to the jury as having been seized from a freshwater stream in Brigus, the witness said he didn't recognize it.

After leaving Shea Heights and returning to Cabot Street, the agent said he was instructed to take a black Cadillac to a house in Shea Heights where there used to be a garage. He said there someone else hauled the vehicle inside the building.

He also recalled picking up the second man accused in the case in Pleasantville in St. John's but did not elaborate on why.

Police agent, witness protection

"At some point you became a police agent,' said Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves, holding a document in front of the man.

"This is ... I'd call it a contract between me and the RCMP," he said, reading the paper. It was signed March 8, 2016, before Potter was arrested, but after Porter was killed.

The contract was terminated on April 28, 2016 because "I wasn't following direction" not to go to his previous home in the downtown area.

This knife was seized as part of the RCMP's investigation into the homicide of Dale Porter. The Vikings Motorcycle Club member turned undercover police agent said he does not recognize this knife. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

He took police around to the area of town where he said the knife was thrown and then to the garage in Shea Heights, he said. A written statement was also given to police.

This information, however, came at a price.

For months, he acted as a confidential informant, making approximately $5,000. The story of how that arrangement came to be starts in the back of a police car in October 2014, the court heard, when the police agent was arrested for a breach.

"Obviously you did this to get out of custody," Noonan asserted.

The witness insisted that wasn't the case, and that he simply felt it was the right time to tell the police what he says he knew.

"It wasn't the way I lived at that time. I didn't live within the law. I lived outside of the law for years so it wouldn't come naturally to give information to police [immediately]."

Then, in March 2016, he was promised a lump sum of $150,000 to be a police agent, but was later cut loose by the RCMP.

First, he broke an order to stay away from his partner, then he met with police wearing stolen jewelry.

The police later came back with a price of $75,000 and asked him to get reacquainted with the Vikings and wear a wire.

The witness box at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"Did they come to you or did you say, 'Hey, why don't you send me in with a wire," Noonan asked.

"No they propositioned me," the agent said.

At the time, the police agent, who himself was a drug addict, owed the Vikings money, and was urged by the police to use his payment from them to pay his drug debts as a way to get close to the club.

But the wire gave the police nothing, Noonan pointed out.

The agent's final $25,000 instalment would be paid to him after Wednesday's testimony.

"​You hit the jackpot," Noonan said. "You got signed up for a $150,000 lump sum payment. All you had to do was make up a story ... and you'd get paid."

Chipping away at testimony

Noonan questioned how legitimate the Vikings Motorcycle Club was, with the agent admitting there were no "specific" rules, and he never saw any cases of retribution.

Drug and alcohol abuse wasn't discouraged, he said.

And when he got in a falling out with Vince Leonard Sr. during Christmas 2014 and cut his club vest, there was no retribution from the club.

And while he owns a motorcycle now, the former motorcycle club member said he didn't always.

"So, you were a member of a motorcycle gang without a motorcycle licence or motorcycle," Noonan said.

"Yes, and I wasn't the only one."

After his involvement supplying police with insider information, "I was told that I had to leave the province, to be removed, for my own safety."

Live blog 

Keep up-to-date with Ariana Kelland's notes from the Al Potter trial. Not seeing the live blog on your mobile device? Click here. 

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Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.