VANCOUVER — A B.C. Supreme Court judge heard heartbreaking statements read by relatives of two Surrey Six victims Tuesday before sentencing Michael Le, the founder of the violent Red Scorpion gang, to 12 years in jail for his role in the 2007 slaughter.
Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen gave Le double credit for four and a half years in pre-trial custody, meaning the net sentence is just three years, one month.
Cullen said while Le had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kill rival drug trafficker Corey Lal, his “moral complicity” in the deaths of five others is high.
“The agreed statement of facts reveals a planned murder of one person which exploded into a monstrous display of wanton pitiless violence which stole the lives of six people, two of whom were classically innocent bystanders,” Cullen said.
And he said the victim impact statements read in court by Jourdane Lal and Eileen Mohan showed “the depth of suffering that has followed in the wake” of B.C.’s worst gangland slaughter.
Lal described the agony of losing Corey and her brother Michael in the Oct. 19, 2007 execution-style murders at Surrey’s Balmoral Tower.
“There is a sadness that runs so strongly through my veins as if my heart is bleeding,” she told Cullen. “My life during these past 74 months has been a series of painfully dreadful days, sleepless nights and defeated times.”
Mohan said losing her only son Christopher, one of the bystanders, “tore our family apart.”
“The bullet that killed Christopher also took a part of his father, his sister and his cousins,” she said, tears streaming down her face.
Cullen accepted a joint submission by Crown prosecutor Peter Juk and Le’s lawyer Chris Johnson for the 12-year term, minus almost nine years pre-trial credit for Le.
The remaining sentence is just three years, one month.
Some of Cullen’s sentencing reasons are covered by a new publication ban imposed Tuesday.
Le entered a surprise guilty plea to conspiracy to commit murder last month, in exchange for the Crown dropping a first-degree murder charge for Lal’s death.
The plea came two months into the murder trial of Le and co-accused Cody Haevischer and Matt Johnston.
Le stood in the prisoner’s box and apologized before learning his fate.
“I sincerely would like to apologize to all the victims and the members of their family for all the pains and sufferings that my actions had generated. I also would like to apologize to them for this heinous and despicable crime committed by the Red Scorpions gang,” Le said. “If I could turn back the hand of time, I would have never created the Red Scorpions gang.”
Juk, the prosecutor, read the agreed statement of facts that Le signed on Dec. 5.
Juk said while Le did give the go-ahead to the Lal murder plot, he never intended for the other victims — Lal’s brother Michael and associates Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo, as well as bystanders Mohan and Ed Schellenberg — to be killed.
“Le was shocked and angry to learn that his friend Eddie Narong was one of the people killed,” Juk said.
He said that accused Surrey Six killer Jamie Bacon, set to stand trial at a later date, had wanted to kill Corey Lal “from mid-2007 onward.”
“There had been ongoing tension and animosity between Bacon and other members of the Red Scorpions and a group of rival drug traffickers led by Corey Lal,” Juk read.
“In the months leading up to the Surrey Six murders, Bacon frequently raised the issue of his hatred for Corey Lal.”
Bacon first claimed that Lal had to be “clipped” during a restaurant meeting attended by Le, a witness known only as Person Y, and other Red Scorpions in September 2007, the statement said.
“After initially resisting the idea at several meetings, Le eventually told Bacon to ‘do whatever you want, whatever you need to do’,” Juk said.
Johnston later reminded Le that he knew someone who could get them into Lal’s apartment building.
Le then contacted the person (dubbed Person A in the agreed statement) “and arranged for him to communicate with Johnston,” Juk said.
On the day of the murders, Le attended a meeting at a Korean restaurant in Surrey with Johnston, Person A and a man who can be identified only as Person X, who has also pleaded guilty in the Surrey Six case.
“Johnston told Le that the arrangements had been taken care of,” Juk said.
After the murders, Johnston confided details of what happened to Le, Juk said.
Later the same day, Person X used a white eraser board to tell Le that “things did not go as planned and that six people had been murdered.”
Person X said he killed three and Haevischer killed three, Juk said.
A few days later, Haevischer also disclosed details of the murders to Le.
“In the weeks that followed the Surrey Six murders, Le also met with Jamie Bacon and they spoke about the Surrey Six murders,” Juk said.
He said Bacon gave Le $25,000 for Person A, who had helped them get into the building.
Le, who grew up in Coquitlam, fled to his native Vietnam after the Surrey Six murders. He was arrested on Jun 17, 2009 as he landed in the Philippines on a business trip and was subsequently charged with conspiracy to kill Lal and the first-degree murder of Lal.
Le was earlier convicted of manslaughter for being in a group of teens who fatally beat another boy in a Coquitlam karaoke club in 2000. Also convicted in that crime was Narong.
Since his first conviction, “Mr. Le has lived a life of crime,” Juk said.
But Chris Johnson, Le’s lawyer, maintains his client has good prospects for rehabilitation because he is sincerely remorseful, intelligent and industrious.
“His guilty plea is indicative of his remorse,” Johnson said. “Mr. Le is an intelligent person and there is some real hope in terms of his future.”