A senior Oshawa Hells Angel and a member of the club's elite Nomads chapter walked free from Whitby court this morning, after a jury rejected charges that they hired a hitman to kill a fellow biker.
Remond (Ray) Akleh, 46, formerly of the Hells Angels' Ottawa-based Nomads chapter and Mark Cephes Stephenson, 45, president of the Oshawa chapter, hugged their families and then each other in a courtroom hallway after the jury foreperson said "Not guilty" three times.
The jury reached its verdict this morning on the fourth day of deliberations.
"I just want to see my kids and hold them," said Akleh, a father of three, as he walked out of the courthouse, surrounded by wet-eyed family members.
He praised the work of the jury in the three-month trial.
"God bless them (the jury)," Akleh said. "They've got a hard job to do."
For Stephenson, it was his first taste of freedom since being arrested at his Durham Region home early in the morning of Sept. 28, 2006. Akleh had been free on bail since February 2007.
Stephenson said he planned to spend the day celebrating with family, and watching NFL playoffs.
"I'm still in the football pool at the jail," Stephenson joked. "So I'm expecting to win."
Stephenson, who works as millwright, praised the jury for not assuming they were guilty, simply because they're Hells Angels.
"We're bikers, not criminals," Stephenson said. "Oshawa, we try to stay what we are: good old boys."
Akleh and Stephenson had each been charged with murder conspiracy and counsel to commit murder for an alleged plot to murder Frank (Cisco) Lenti of the Bandidos Motorcycle club in the summer of 2006.
The alleged murder plot was never carried out.
In reaching its verdict, the jury rejected the testimony of former Hells Angel Steven Gault of the club's Oshawa chapter, who told court he was recruited to be the hitman in the plot against Lenti.
No direct orders to kill Lenti were picked up on recording devices worn by Gault, but Gault said the command was conveyed with a series of hand signals.
The trial took a bizarre twist in early December, when Akleh shocked the courtroom by announcing that he too was a police informer, feeding authorities information on Gault and the rival Bandidos club.
At the time he was an informer, Akleh was a member of the Hells Angels "Dream Team," the Ottawa-based Nomads chapter.
He became emotional last month when he told court that love of his family and fear of Gault drove him to commit the biggest sin in the Hells Angels world: inform to police.
Most of his information was against Gault, and to a lesser extent the Bandidos, court heard.
Akleh testified that he began talking to police because he believed Gault was a threat to the lives of himself and his family.
Court heard that Akleh told his police contact that tensions erupted between himself and Gault after he accused Gault of being a police informer, and tried to have him thrown out of the club.
The club held a series of hearings to settle the dispute between Akleh and Gault, court heard, with the Hells Angels eventually ruling that Gault was a loyal member, not an informer.
Akleh's lawyer, Glenn Orr, argued that only "an imbecile or a moron" would recruit someone to carry out a murder, while suspecting that the would-be hitman was a police informer.
Orr and Stephenson's lawyer, Brian Grys, each assailed the credibility and character of Gault, who they said was motivated by a desire for money from the police and revenge against Akleh and Stephenson.
Akleh and Gault became bitter enemies, after Akleh accused Gault of being a police informer, while Stephenson reportedly suggested that Gault wasn't smart enough to hold the position of secretary-treasurer for the club.
Gault received more than $1 million for working as a police agent in an 18-month project that ended in September 2006, with the arrests of 16 full members of the Hells Angels on a variety of drug and weapons charges.
Court heard that Gault requested the work and home address of Lenti, and a photograph of him, to help in the murder bid, but that they were not provided to him.
The Crown team of John Scott and Martin Flagg had argued that Lenti was targeted for murder by the Hells Angels because he was attempting to revive the Bandidos in Ontario, after eight members were murdered in April 2006 near the hamlet of Shedden in southwestern Ontario.
Court heard of longstanding tensions between the Bandidos and Hells Angels around the world. The jury also heard from Hells Angels minutes from July 2006, which stated that the club believed that the Bandidos' Canadian arm had been disbanded by the club's headquarters in Texas.
The trial in the Bandidos mass murder is scheduled to begin next month in London. Six people connected to the Bandidos club each face eight first degree murder charges.
Meanwhile, Lenti is serving a six-year manslaughter term after pleading guilty to fatally shooting West Toronto Hells Angel David (Dred) Buchanan in December 2006.
Lenti told police he feared for his life after being told that the Hells Angels had taken out a contract on his life.
In a conversation with the Star last winter, Lenti said that he never believed Akleh would try to kill him, as the two men had been friends when they were clubmates together in the Toronto chapter of the Satan's Choice Motorcycle Club in the late 1990s.