Nova Scotia

N.S. judge orders single trial for 4 accused in biker club beating case

Four men with alleged ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs are set to go to trial this spring in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on charges they viciously beat a man for stealing a vest and then left him in a pickup truck along the side of a highway in Cape Breton.

Men accused of beating victim at Gate Keepers clubhouse in Pictou County

Motorcycles are shown parked out front of the Gate Keepers clubhouse in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., in 2016. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Four men with alleged ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs are set go to trial this spring in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on charges they viciously beat a man for stealing a vest and then left him in a pickup truck along the side of a highway in Cape Breton.

One of the four, Donald Melborne Messenger, tried to have his case heard separately from his three co-accused. But in a decision released this week, Justice Nick Scaravelli refused to grant the severance request.

"In this case, I am not convinced that the accused has established a threat to his interests or his constitutional rights that would clearly call for separate trials," the judge wrote in his decision.

The victim in the case was accused of stealing a vest, known as a "cut," and a sign from Messenger's home. The sign was for the Gate Keepers Motorcycle Club and Messenger has been identified in court documents as a prospect member of the club. The beating was alleged to have happened in the Gate Keepers clubhouse in Pictou County, N.S., on June 7, 2016.

Messenger, along with William Jeffrey Giles, Charles Jardine Hayman and David James Bishop, are facing charges including aggravated assault, forcible confinement and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault.

Mr. Big sting

According to court documents, a fifth man, James Bacon, pleaded guilty to charges related to the assault and was placed in witness protection. Bacon has already given a sworn statement and is expected to testify at the trial of the other four.

The documents also show that Messenger was the target of a Mr. Big sting.

While court documents did not elaborate, Mr. Big stings usually involve undercover police officers posing as members of a criminal gang in order to trick a subject into admitting to their involvement in a crime.

In asking for a separate trial, Messenger said he was afraid of Bacon, whom he identified as a former Hells Angels member, and Bishop, whom he said used to belong to the Bacchus Motorcycle Club.

The Crown was opposed to Messenger's application, saying that separate trials would prolong a case that has already dragged on for more than four years.

Separate trials would also use up valuable court resources, something judges have been trying to avoid as they struggle to deal with restrictions caused by the pandemic.

The Crown has even suggested that if trying all four together involves putting too many people in a courtroom to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the trial can always be moved to a larger venue.

The judge-alone trial is scheduled to begin before Scaravelli on May 3.

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