The lawyers for three men accused of either organizing or participating in a historical Saskatoon murder argue there is no evidence their clients were involved in the killing of Isho Hana.
Closing arguments began Monday at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench in the lengthy trial of Jonathan Kenneth Dombowsky, Long Nam Luu and Kenneth Jacob Tingle. The men are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Hana, who was fatally shot on Preston Avenue in 2004.
A “Mr. Big” sting led to the charges after another man, Neil Lee Yakimchuk, confessed to undercover police officers that he shot Hana and implicated the accused men of being involved in the alleged contract killing connected to the Saskatoon drug trade.
All three defence lawyers argued Yakimchuk is a seasoned criminal who lies and is therefore unreliable, pointing to inconsistencies between his statements made under oath and what he said to undercover police officers in 2011.
Yakimchuk refused to testify at the men’s trial, forcing the Crown to rely heavily on the statements he made during the Mr. Big operation.
Defence says no direct evidence Mr. Luu did anything
Defence lawyer Morris Bodnar said there’s nothing to show Luu was involved in putting up money for the alleged $45,000 hit, or that he was even in Saskatoon at the time.
In his Mr. Big statement, Yakimchuk said he and his partner cleaned their guns in the bathtub of a small town hotel after the murder and returned them to an Asian man named “Jesse” who paid them when they returned home to Calgary.
Noel Harder, a police informant who testified for the Crown, said “Jesse” was an alias used by Luu. He said Luu was a known drug dealer in Saskatoon before he moved to Calgary.
But Yakimchuk wasn’t even able to identify Luu in court because they had never met, Bodnar pointed out, arguing “Jesse” could easily be another person.
He said Yakimchuk couldn’t have returned the guns to Luu because there was evidence of shells and bullets from one gun in Calgary. Once police confirmed that, Bodnar said Yakimchuk changed his story on the stand.
“You can’t believe anything he says,” Bodnar told Justice Richard Danyliuk.
Bodnar also reminded the court of his client’s alibi. Luu said he was in Vancouver during the shooting on April. 15, 2004. His grandmother-in-law took the stand, showing pictures of Luu and his children visiting her in Alberta before Luu and his wife flew out to Vancouver three days prior to the murder.
Bodnar said Harder, a drug dealer-turned-police informant, had ulterior motives for testifying against the men. It was Harder who wanted to take over the drug trade in Saskatoon from Hana, Bodnar argued. He questioned why police didn’t take a closer look at Harder, who had major charges dropped in exchange for working with police.
Passage of time tainted Yakimchuk’s evidence, says defence
Yakimchuk told an undercover police officer that he visited one of the accused, Dombowsky, while that man was in the hospital following an attack. Court heard they were childhood friends.
Dombowsky allegedly told Yakimchuk that he was attacked by Hana’s crew and offered to pay Yakimchuk to kill Hana. Dombowsky and Hana were rival drug bosses fighting for territory in Saskatoon, court heard.
Dombowsky’s lawyer, George Combe, said there is no evidence that Yakimchuk went to see his client while he was hospitalized in March 2004. Yakimchuk said the accused told him that his heart stopped twice, but there’s no medical evidence to support that, said Combe. Dombowsky had severe head injuries but Yakimchuk made no mention of that, Combe pointed out.
In order to be an “aider and abbetter,” Dombowsky would need to have knowledge of the contract killing, he said. But Combe argued there’s nothing to support that beyond Yakimchuk’s claim, and nothing to show that Dombowsky had arranged for Luu to pay for a hit on Hana.
Yakimchuk also told police that there were “territorial restrictions” on the drug trade in Saskatoon, but this was disproved by other evidence heard in court, Combe said.
In the end, Combe argued Yakimchuk’s statements are inconsistent and “substantially undermined by factual evidence.”
He also compared Harder to a “slippery piece of soap,” saying the informant would change or embellish his story in order to tell police what they wanted to hear.
Harder testified he heard Dombowsky and Luu were involved in putting a $25,000 hit on Hana during a meeting at a restaurant 11 years ago.
Closing arguments will continue Tuesday morning.