Joseph McIntyre admits he had a suspicion something sketchy was going down on March 21 of last year.
He was driving to a residence on Salmonier Line with two acquaintances in the backseat of his car, both members of the Vikings motorcycle club. McIntyre thought he was going with them for another look at a Harley-Davidson bike he was hoping to purchase. It turns out the men in the back had worked out a heroin deal instead.
At least that’s what McIntyre, 42, told provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday as he took the stand at his own trial for trafficking cocaine and fentanyl.
He said he knew the two men — whom he identified as James Curran, who is also facing charges, and a man now known to be a Viking-turned-police informant, who was wearing a hidden recording device — were having a conversation about business, but he wanted nothing to do with it.
“I was just trying to ignore them,” McIntyre said. “There’s two full-patch members (of the Vikings) talking about business, I’m not getting my nose into it.”
Though police allege he is a Viking, McIntyre told the court he was just a “hanger-on.”
“It’s a person that hangs around the clubs. How can I explain it? Like a helper, if they needed my services, bartending or whatever,” he said.
“What was your understanding of what (the Vikings) did?” Crown prosecutor Trevor Bridger asked.
“It was my understanding they are affiliated with the Hells Angels,” McIntyre replied.
McIntyre said he wore a green patch on his vest as a “hanger on” of the club.
“How did you get involved with them?” Bridger asked.
“I was approached by the president of the Vikings, Vince Leonard, to bartend two times,” McIntyre replied. “He knew I didn’t drink. He said I had to wear a green patch.”
“So you met Vince Leonard twice and he’s asking you to bartend at a party with the Hells Angels, is that right?” Bridger asked.
“Yes,” McIntyre answered.
He acknowledged he had also attended a Vikings meeting.
McIntyre testified he had been looking to buy the second-hand broken-down motorcycle from a guy on Salmonier Line, and was on his way to see it for the second time that day, looking to get the VIN number to make sure it wasn’t stolen. His intention was to try to fix it and ride it, he said, or maybe resell it.
He acknowledged it was Vikings policy that a member couldn’t become full-patch unless they owned a motorcycle, but said the fact never crossed his mind and wasn’t a factor in his decision to buy the bike.
Referring to the transcript of the recorded conversation from the car, which was played in court Monday, Bridger pointed out instances where voices alleged to belong to Curran and the informant had mentioned cocaine, marijuana and heroin. At one point in the recording one of the men asked McIntyre if the man they were going to see was the one with the heroin. McIntyre is heard saying it was his brother.
McIntyre told the court he was attempting to find out what the men were up to.
After Curran allegedly left the vehicle and came back, he and the informant are heard talking about scales and weighing an ounce of heroin.
“I’ll take a piece and try it,” Curran is heard saying.
“Yeah, but this is f---ing heroin, isn’t it?” the informant replies. “I’m not f---ing touching it.”
“I’ll weigh it,” Curran is heard saying.
McIntyre told the court he didn’t remember hearing that conversation and didn’t see any drugs, money or scales.
“If I knew there were drugs in my car, they’d be out walking,” he said.
“You’d kick two full-patch members out of the car?” Bridger asked.
“Man, I got a family,” McIntyre responded. “It’s been two years of this crap going on. I’ve lost so much. (I’d tell them) leave me out of it, take the car, do whatever. I don’t do no drugs, never been in trouble in my life. This is the first time I’ve been in a courtroom.”
On Monday, the informant testified at McIntyre’s trial. The public was banned from the courtroom as the man, who is now under witness protection, was escorted in by police officers and took his seat behind a screen to conceal his identity.
The informant had passed the heroin on to police, and it was found not to be heroin at all: it was actually fentanyl cut with caffeine.
In his closing submissions, Bridger pointed out the men had paid $3,500 for one ounce of the drug, the same amount McIntyre testified he was going to pay for the motorcycle, which he didn’t end up buying.
“I would submit that’s a pretty significant coincidence to have His Honour believe,” Bridger told Judge David Orr.
“I don’t think you can be left with any doubt that Mr. McIntyre was involved in this transaction as well.”
In his closing submissions, defence lawyer Jeff Slade told the judge the evidence as heard on the recording supported McIntyre’s testimony. Since he was in the front seat and the other two men were in the back, it’s reasonable to believe he had no knowledge of what was going on, Slade said, pointing out McIntyre had opened up about his involvement with the Vikings.
McIntyre was arrested in September 2016 along with Curran, Leonard and eight others: Leonard’s sons, Vincent Leonard Jr. and Shane Leonard, Wayne Johnson, Thomas Snow, Allister Hayley, Kenneth Kerrivan and Dr. Brendan Hollohan. The men were charged after police executed search warrants at six locations in Cupids and St. John’s as part of Operation Bombard, looking into the operations of the Vikings club.
Among the items seized during the search were Vikings clothing, weapons, photos, jewelry, cash, eight motorcycles, two pickups, cocaine, cannabis resin, oxycodone and temazepam pills, and the powder containing fentanyl.
In September, Vincent Leonard Jr., said to be an associate of the Vikings and not a member, was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to drug charges.
Operation Bombard began as a joint RNC/RCMP investigation into the murder of Dale Porter, who was stabbed to death on his property in North River in June 2014. Two men, Allan Potter and Daniel Leonard, are charged with first-degree murder as a result, and their preliminary hearing will begin this month.