Mongols on trial: Witness’s account sounds like a movie script, defense attorney says
A secret witness drew inspiration from Hollywood films to concoct an elaborate story of drug and gun trafficking, a lawyer for an alleged gang leader has claimed.
The former gang insider’s account is similar to a plot twist in the movie The Usual Suspects, says Bill Nabney, who acts for Mongols National Chairman Jim Thacker.
In this film, a character played by actor Kevin Spacey “makes up a story, using things [he sees] in the room to weave a web.
Similarly, some of the people the witness described as being involved in the gang were like movie characters, Nabney suggested during his closing argument at a High Court trial in Hamilton on Friday.
“Two Times, like Jimmy Two Times in [the movie] Goodfellas… Marko, Irish.
“It looks like stuff in a movie that he made up, to sound or feel real. That’s what I would suggest.
“That would be a great movie script,” Nabney later added. “But that’s all it is. It’s just a story.
The witness has a permanent name deletion and testified earlier in the trial.
The seven men and five women on a High Court jury will soon have to decide whether his testimony is something that could have been written by a screenwriter.
Nine senior and affiliated members of the Mongols, including Thacker, are tried on a series of drug and weapons charges.
Following a covert surveillance operation, police arrested the entire senior ranks of the gang in June 2020. At the time, police said a gang war was brewing in the Bay of Plenty area, with many groups vying for the lion’s share of the drug market. .
Among those also on trial are the gang’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Leon “Wolf” Huritu; Jason “666” Ross; Kelly “Rhino” Petrowski; Hone “One-er” Ronaki; Matthew Ramsden; Kane Ronaki; Te Renetti Tarau; and another man who has a temporary name deletion.
Much of Friday was devoted to closing arguments for Nabney, who is acting for both Thacker and Huritu in the lawsuit.
Police had obtained a warrant to monitor Thacker’s phone in late 2019 and for the next six months he had made “not a single comment in which drugs of any kind were mentioned”, Nabney said. . “Not one.”
“And yet the Crown would have you believe that he was the main person in a major drug operation.”
The lack of references to methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs did not align with the charges against Thacker, the attorney said.
”[Thacker] is so good, he is so shrewd that despite moving massive amounts of drugs, as the Crown alleges, he never once mentioned the drugs.
“You will have no difficulty in finding Mr. Thacker not guilty of all the charges he faces because the evidence is simply not there.”
The jury had previously viewed Snapchat footage of Thacker snorting a long line of cocaine – but it wasn’t the damning evidence the Crown believed it was, Nabney said.
“Although it seems like a prodigious amount, it was a single occasion.”
The testimony of the secret witness – who said he communicated with his colleagues at the Mongols using the codename “Wheelman” – was filled with vague dates and times of his exploits, Nabney said, such as when he met a person called Marko in Johnsonville – or possibly, as he told police earlier, in Christchurch.
Another area where “there was simply no evidence” against Thacker was the January 28, 2020 incident in which a house on Haukore St in Tauranga was pelted with gunfire.
The Crown alleges the house was targeted as part of a series of increasingly violent exchanges involving the Mongols and rival gang Mongrel Mob.
“We don’t know who the shooters are. This is common ground. Nobody does,” Nabney said.
Thacker, Hone Ronaki, Huritu and the name-suppressed defendant had been accused by police of discharging firearms with reckless disregard in relation to this incident.
“The Crown’s position is…if they’re not the shooters, they’re certainly part of what happened. Well, there is no proof of that.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Thacker encouraged this, [or] wanted this to happen.
Likewise, no one could say for sure that Thacker was involved in a later shootout between Mongrel Mob and Mongol members west of Te Puke.
“We don’t know if Mr. Thacker actually got there,” Nabney said.
“It’s up to the Crown to prove he was there, and then they have to convince you he wasn’t acting in self-defence.”
The trial continues.