Above: Murder Victim Dave Marnuik
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bill Smart decried public gang violence Thursday as he sentenced Greeks boss Peter Manolakos to life in prison with no hope of parole for 25 years for first-degree murder.
At the same time, Smart handed Manolakos a concurrent sentence of 15 years — minus more than 13 years pre-trial credit — for a manslaughter conviction in the brutal beating death of Greeks driver David Marnuik in July 2004.
Smart also sentenced Greeks associate Douglas Brownell to 17 years, minus 12 years pre-trial credit for two manslaughter convictions in the deaths of Greeks gang rivals Thomas Bryce in November 2004 and Ron Thom in May 2005.
Smart said Brownell was not an active member of the Greeks at the time, but was working in the drug trade to support his own addiction.
The judge accepted statements made by Brownell at his sentencing hearing last month that he is remorseful for his actions and has turned his life around.
“I am satisfied that his emotion is genuine and his remorse is sincere,” Smart said as Brownell sat in the prisoner’s box at the Vancouver Law Courts, just a seat away from Manolakos.
Smart started the sentencing hearing by making what he called “general observations” about the gang situation in B.C.
“On an almost weekly basis, the public sees and hears the risks posed to a peaceful and just society by gangs involved in the drug trade. Such gangs challenge the rule of law and create fear in law-abiding citizens that they, their children and other family members may be harmed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Smart said.
“The consequences to individuals and the community caused by gangs trafficking illicit drugs are extraordinary. They include violence on public streets, property crime, ruined lives and huge expenditures of public resources. Members of gangs involved in the illicit drug trade in Canada convicted of murder, manslaughter and other violent offences must be met with harsh sentences. Such sentences are a critical part of how the courts can express society’s denunciation for such violence in an attempt to deter others and keep our communities safe.”
Smart noted Manolakos’s role as “the leader of a criminal organization that operated an illegal drug trafficking business.”
“He is an intelligent man who maintained control of his gang and expanded his drug business by the use of violence and intimidation. He ran a business with the apparent indifference as to the consequences of the drugs he sold and the violence he encouraged had on individuals or the community of Vernon,” Smart said.
“Mr. Manolakos operated a relatively sophisticated drug business and manipulated and controlled those who worked for him through a variety of ways — first by the use of violence and the threat of violence. Second, by the force of his personality. Third, by the financial rewards and sense of belonging and friendship that he held out to his senior members.”
Manolakos was convicted of manslaughter in the brutal beating and torture death of Marnuik for ordering his enforcers to find Marnuik and beat him for stealing drugs and money while on shift. Manolakos was also convicted of first-degree murder for ordering the hit on Thom, who the Greeks mistakenly believed was helping police.
Brownell’s role in the two deaths was lesser than others, Smart said, and in part related to his drug use at the time.
While Brownell joined in the fatal beating of Bryce on a popular beach front outside of Vernon, he did not inflict the fatal baseball bat blow to the head, Smart said.
“He did participate in a continuous assault of a man who was outnumbered, helpless and lying on the ground,” Smart said.
Brownell’s role in Thom’s death a few months later was to escort him from his campsite to the spot where the Greeks were waiting for him. He didn’t know they planned to kill Thom, Smart said.
“Mr. Brownell knew that Mr. Thom would very likely suffer a beating at the hands of the Greeks enforcers,” Smart said.
Both Manolakos and Brownell got two-for-one credit for most of their pre-trial custody. (Routine double time credit was eliminated by the federal government after their arrest.)
Smart also gave Brownell 2.5-to-one pre-trial jail credit for the last year of his incarceration because he was held in solitary confinement due to threats against him.
Three other Greeks enforcers — Dale Sipes, Leslie Podolski and Sheldon O’Donnell — have already been sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years for their roles in the slayings of Marnuik, Bryce and Thom.
William Mastop, a lawyer who pleaded guilty to working for the criminal organization, will be sentenced next month.
The RCMP put together a special task force to look into the gang’s activities in 2004 and 2005, resulting in arrests and charges in May 2006.
While jurors heard evidence in three murders, Greeks gang members are also suspects in four other slayings in the north Okanagan.
At the time of the first Greeks arrests in May 2006, police said the gangsters were major players in the drug trade in the Okanagan and also had tentacles that reached to Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities. They also had links to the Hells Angels.