VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A member of the Hells Angels was found not guilty on Thursday in a case police had hoped would damage the motorcycle club in Western Canada by declaring it to be a criminal organization.
The British Columbia Supreme Court judge said in her ruling, which cleared David Giles of a drug charge and of belonging to criminal organization, that the evidence against him was weak, so she had no reason to decide if the Hells Angels organization was itself criminal group.
Giles is a "full patch" member of a Hells Angels' East End chapter in Vancouver. Police have alleged the club's chapters on Canada's Pacific Coast have become some of its richest in North America through drug dealing.
A ruling that it was a criminal organization would have allowed police to seize Hells Angels' property in Vancouver and made for stiffer sentences for those involved with it.
The Hells Angels deny the organization is involved in criminal activity and argue the club should not be blamed for any illegal activity by individual members.
Two other men who are not full members of the club were convicted of possessing and trafficking in cocaine.
The trial stemmed from a C$10 million ($9.8 million) police probe and raids on the East End chapter in 2005.
The judge said statements Giles made in conversations secretly recorded at the chapter's clubhouse were not as incriminating as police and prosecutors implied, and transcripts of the recordings were inaccurate.
Giles' attorney said the police case was one of "seeing things that were not there and hearing things that were not there."
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson