Bikers gloat over informer's plight
Website mocks suit launched by witness in protection program
MPP calls that equivalent to putting `a bounty on his head'
Dec. 2, 2005. 04:48 AM
JIM RANKIN AND ROBERT BENZIE
The Toronto chapter of the Hells Angels has taken an interest in the plight of a witness who testified in 1998 against an outlaw biker, and now finds himself cut off from the province's witness assistance and relocation program.
On its website, the chapter calls Todd Petahtegoose — the man the province believes is no longer in danger, provided he stays out of the "original threat area" — a "snitch" and a "fink" who "sold the government a pack of lies."
Yesterday, despite pleas to Attorney General Michael Bryant, Ontario officially cut off financial support for Petahtegoose, his wife and 13-year-old daughter, who have been living under different identities. The three spent yesterday moving out of their government-funded lodging and are without a plan to ensure their safety and proper identification to match their identities.
That the Hells Angels had taken an interest in him, and perhaps hadn't forgotten at all, came as unsettling news.
"That's been my concern all along," said Petahtegoose, who had been considering staging a public sit-in but yesterday was rethinking things.
"At this point right now, I'm just pretty numb. I'm just trying to slowly process everything and do it logically, without doing anything rash."
Petahtegoose said he was arranging shelter for his wife and daughter, but imagined he'd be on his own. "We're relying on the charity of others."The family has hired Toronto lawyer Barry Swadron and is suing the OPP and attorney general, alleging that promises were broken and power abused. They are seeking a little more than $1 million in damages.
At Queen's Park yesterday, NDP MPP Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre) warned that the posting on the Hells Angels' website identified Petahtegoose as an informer. "That clearly indicates that he is being targeted. It's as much as putting a bounty on his head without specifically saying so," he said.
Bryant was unavailable to comment. He has refused to discuss Petahtegoose's case or intervene, citing the civil suit and the confidentiality of the protection program. He has said the province's program is one of the best and denies the couple's allegations.
In Canada, the RCMP administers a federal protection program that is regulated by law and has a degree of transparency. Ontario operates its own, which is not bound by an act and is so secretive that neither the number of people in the program, nor the cost, is made public. The programs are intended to provide protection, new identities and enough support to help witnesses and informants re-establish their lives.
Besides an edited version of a Star story — under headlines that read "Crown Pulls The Plug On Financial Aid For Fink" and "Gravy Train Stops for `Snitch'" — the Hells Angels' website included a quote attributed to an unnamed biker, taking glee in the fact the province cut off financial support.
"He told some lies about a dead man to get out of his own trouble, now after years of taking the government for a ride, they've finally had enough.... The government will take the word of any scumbag who will lie about a biker."
That was followed by some brief commentary that refers to Petahtegoose as Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon skunk.
"The informant sold the government a pack of lies that got them nothing for several hundred thousand dollars while he sat on the couch playing video games for eight years. Now the government has decided they've had enough of holding Pepi La Pew's (sic) hand, and want to cut him lose (sic)."
Swadron said yesterday that the posting is unsettling. "As if this poor family hasn't enough to worry about, now the Hells Angels have joined in the fray and added to their living hell."
Although shaken, Petahtegoose dismissed the Hells Angels take on his involvement in the program. "Everybody's entitled to an opinion," he said.
In July 1998, Petahtegoose testified in a preliminary hearing into a murder charge against Michael Dube, a senior member of the Sudbury Satan's Choice motorcycle gang, which became Hells Angels in late 2000. Three months after Petahtegoose testified against him, Dube hanged himself in jail.
Petahtegoose, in interviews, said he had known Dube for years. He says Dube told him about two murders he had committed, and he began to fear that his own life was in danger. He says he then set out to have himself arrested and become a Crown witness.
Petahtegoose, 43, who has a criminal record for offences he admitted to in his teens, was picked up in 1996 on drugs, weapons and driving offences. Within days he was giving information.
He says he told the OPP about 10 bodies in all, half of them biker-related. He and his wife were assigned new identities, but for years Petahtegoose refused to sign off on offers that were made because none matched what the couple believed they had been originally promised. In May, after he launched his suit against the province, he was told the attorney general was pulling financial support as of Nov. 30.
“Nobody's perfect. We're all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels.”