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Bike-show boss acquitted of police assault

Judge finds cops breached rights

The organizer of a popular Winnipeg motorcycle show has been cleared of allegations he obstructed and assaulted police who turned up at his event to seize a racing bike linked to a high-ranking Manitoba Hells Angel.

Robert (Robyn) Gray learned of his acquittal Monday in provincial court and walked away a free man.

Gray represented himself at trial and successfully challenged several facets of the Crown's case.

Judge Wanda Garreck found police breached Gray's rights against unlawful search and seizure and arbitrary detention.

As well, she ruled, Const. Jeff Norman breached his duty to properly investigate who should have been served with a search warrant police obtained to seize a Harley-Davidson Destroyer from a display at the Rolling Thunder motorcycle show at the convention centre on March 16, 2012.

Police and the Crown believe the motorbike belongs to full-patch Hells Angels member Dale Sweeney, who had been collared that day in a major drug crackdown against the gang.

Norman and his partner turned up, notified a convention centre security guard why they were there and moved in to seize the bike.

This prompted a public exchange with Gray on the exhibition floor after he discovered what was happening -- one described by Garreck as "very brief and stressful" and eventually saw the heavily armed tactical support team attend.

The fracas ended with Gray being arrested and cuffed by Norman for assault and obstruction of a police officer after Gray touched Norman's upper arm while repeatedly asking to see the warrant.

Gray rented the space for Rolling Thunder from the annual World of Wheels show. Garreck found as Rolling Thunder's longtime organizer, he was entrusted with the care of the Harley-Davidson on display and should have been the person police dealt with.

Police simply had to ask a few more questions to get to the bottom of things, but didn't, Garreck stated in her lengthy written ruling.

"It was (Rolling Thunder) that rented the space and allowed others to enter their motorcycles at the invitation of the company," said Garreck. "While Const. Norman may not have been aware of these facts, he did little to investigate or determine who on site was in charge of the actual property being seized," she wrote.

"... The fact Const. Norman did not know Mr. Gray had control of the space and the motorcycle was very much related to a lack of investigation and perhaps an attitude of not wanting to know if anyone there was in control of the motorcycle," Garreck said.

She signalled she was aware police were trying to act cautiously to not alert anyone associated with Sweeney they were claiming the bike. Still, the breaches of Gray's rights were "serious," she said.

As for the touch that led to the assault and obstruction charges, Gray had no ill intent, Garreck ruled.

A battle over who actually owns the motorcycle continues, with a hearing set for April in the Court of Queen's Bench. Gray is not a party to that action.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

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