FIVE Finks bikies convicted of bashing a senior member have severed all ties with the criminal lifestyle and no longer associate with outlaws, a court has heard.
However, prosecutors have urged the Supreme Court to reject the group’s asserted change of heart, saying records of their time in prison tell a different story. They claim lists of visitors, phone calls and letters received — as well as money paid into one man’s account — show they continue to live as they always did, even in prison.
Corey Dettmann, Bozidar Cekic, Dean Richard Ciantar, Paul Paunovic and Mostyn Carmello Rex Niemann faced sentencing submissions in the Supreme Court today.
The men — members and prospective members of the now-defunct gang — pleaded not guilty at trial to one aggravated count of causing serious harm with intent. They each denied a further, aggravated count of theft. Prosecutors alleged the offences occurred at the Finks’ “north side” club rooms in Salisbury on February 13, 2013 against senior Finks bikie Charles Bonnici. They further alleged it resulted in the theft of Mr Bonnici’s gold neck chain worth $67,200.
Prosecutors alleged the group used pool cues, a vacuum cleaner, a table and bolt cutters during a planned assault designed to enhance their standing within the now-defunct gang. Injuries sustained by Mr Bonnici — who did not give evidence — included two collapsed lungs, brain swelling and multiple fractures. Three days into the trial, Chief Justice Kourakis dismissed the aggravated theft charges.
Prosecutors alleged the offences occurred at the Finks’ “north side” club rooms in Salisbury on February 13, 2013 against senior Finks bikie Charles Bonnici. They further alleged it resulted in the theft of Mr Bonnici’s gold neck chain worth $67,200. Prosecutors alleged the group used pool cues, a vacuum cleaner, a table and bolt cutters during a planned assault designed to enhance their standing within the now-defunct gang. Injuries sustained by Mr Bonnici — who did not give evidence — included two collapsed lungs, brain swelling and multiple fractures.
Giving evidence, Cekic said the assault was not pre-planned but was a one-on-one brawl sparked by Mr Bonnici making the group wait in the heat for a Finks meeting. In his evidence, Dettman — a former Sergeant at Arms of the club — said the chain was cut from Mr Bonnici’s neck because he needed assistance with it. Chief Justice Chris Kourakis rejected their evidence as “inherently improbable” and found each member of the group guilty.
Today Martin Anders, for Cekic, 24, said his client’s new outlook on life should be a primary consideration in sentencing. “My client was a young man at the time and it is his sworn evidence that he has no intention of patching over to the Mongols Motorcycle Club,” he said. “Prosecutors will oppose this based on material supplied to them by prison authorities (that) runs some hundreds of pages. If we were afforded some time to take instructions, before submissions proceed today, that should be adequate to address this issue.”
Heath Barklay, for Ciantar, agreed. “My client wants to make a break from any association with motorcycle clubs, indeed he has made that break, and that’s been done for some time,” he said. Lawyers for the other men also asked for time. Chief Justice Kourakis granted counsel an hour’s adjournment to speak to their clients, but warned the matter not be able to proceed.
“The accused may wish to make the submission they ceased any association with the club after these events and do not have any intention of resuming those connections,” he said. "If that submission is made in mitigation, the onus to prove that on the balance on probability rests with them. It will not be enough to say that from the bar table, and may have to be the subject of evidence.”
Following the adjournment, Mr Anders said Cekic’s brief time as a Fink represented a period in which a “very talented young man lost his way” in life. “As teenagers, we all make errors of judgment — some more profound than others,” he said. “As we enter our twenties, we reflect upon those errors and think differently ... that’s precisely the situation Cekic is in now. “He wants to right the wrongs he has committed and elevate his family’s name to the good position it once occupied.”
Mr Barklay said Ciantar, 24, had “spent half his life in jail” for offences of violence and became associated with the Finks through his friend, former footballer Dylan Jessen. He said Ciantar had severed all ties with the club just as Jessen had and, like his friend, had no intention of joining the Mongols. He’s fully aware, now more than ever, when he looks back on his life, what a complete muck he has made of it,” he said. “He feels he is a complete idiot for the decisions he has made in his life.”
David Edwardson, QC, for Dettmann, said a long penalty placed his client at risk of becoming institutionalised. He said Dettmann, 42, had “spent 16 of the past 20 years” in jail. “He recognises all the wrong choices he has made are, to a large extent, because his identity has been shaped, since he was a young boy, by the prison system,” he said. “He has been on a criminal treadmill.” Mr Edwardson said Dettmann was a Fink from July 2010 until 2013, but shared “a lifelong friendship” with former Fink, now Mongol Mark Sandery that predated his membership. He said his client would not join the Mongols, but would maintain that friendship. He said Dettmann would also continue to benefit from the support of his girlfriend, whom he considered “the most important and significant” part of his life. Mr Edwardson said none of the five men should be sentenced more harshly because they were Finks at the time of the offending. He said that, despite the efforts of the State Government, being a member of the Finks was not illegal and the group had not been declared a criminal organisation. “There’s absolutely no basis at all for any of these men getting a high penalty because of their association with a group that was not unlawful,” he said. He noted prosecutors had filed application for Dettmann to be declared a serious repeat offender, exposing him to the risk of a harsher-than-normal jail term.
Andrew Williams, for Niemann, said his client had been a nominee member for just two months when the offending occurred. He said Niemann, 26, was a respected and recognised boxer who had participated in world championships as an amateur and had a 6-1 record as a professional. Mr Williams said that one loss occurred in a cruiserweight championship bout, and had robbed Niemann of his self-confidence. “He took it very hard and he lost his way at that time,” he said. He said Niemann had befriended Cekic while training, and it was through him that he became a Finks nominee. “Let me be clear: he has no aspirations to maintain any association with any club, be it the Finks or the Mongols ... he wants to get on with his life and pursue his sporting interests,” he said. “My client is a very good candidate for rehabilitation ... he had never been in prison before, and this was a salutary lesson for him.”
Anthony Allen, for Paunovic, said his client had battled drug addiction and the trauma of a dysfunctional childhood throughout his life. He said Paunovic, 40, had risen above his demons once before and lived a law-abiding life prior to the clubhouse incident, proving he could rehabilitate. “Whilst he has an extensive criminal history, there’s still a glimmer of hope for this man ... he’s not to be consigned to the scrapheap of recidivism,” he said.
Chief Justice Kouakis said that was only part of the issue he needed to consider.
“The question is not whether they are members (of outlaw clubs) or feel strong ties of affiliation now, but rather what will happen in the future,” he said. “If they are maintaining contact (with club members) now, that’s not going to give me as much confidence as if they were completely ‘clean’. On the other hand, it does not necessarily mean they are going to get back into the clubs ... I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know.”
The group will be sentenced at a later date. Appeals have been filed against the guilty verdicts.