|Pic © Valily Jewelry|
Consequently, this raised much concern from the authorities because of the substantial number of deaths. From this concern was created Project Rush and Project Ocean. Projet Rush was targeted at investigating the leaders of the Hells Angels who were key factors in the war on drugs and Project Ocean was aimed at understanding how the Hells Angels structured their club (Cherry, 2005, p.2). Three years of investigation from april 1998 to march 2001, the evidence of an important amount of electronic surveillance transcripts done on no less than 150 members as well as the information gathered from infiltrated agents led to what is known as Opération Printemps 2001, the outcome of the joint fusion of Project Ocean and Rush as well as the case study for this research paper. Opération Printemps 2001 was put in place to firstly investigate thoroughly the society of the Hells Angels and then proceed to the tentative of dismantling the whole network of organized crime and drug trafficking.
Printemps 2001 was the first major anti biker raid of the history of Quebec and lead to 118 arrests of bike gang members. The “Criminal charges against those arrested ranged from weapons offences, money laundering, conspiracy, drug trafficking, murder, and gangsterism” (Morselli, 2009, p.149). As of the disclosure of evidence, this mega trial called upon testimony from 215 witnesses, 250 intercepted communications from electronic surveillance, 120 videocassettes, 70 audiovisual communications, 900 000 pages of document and 1150 surveillance operations (Boisvert et al., 2003, p. B2) For the purpose of this research paper, only nine of the accused will be taken in consideration as there is an imposing number of total arrests and it would be absurd to cover them all. As such, the arrests of Normand Robitaille, Denis Houle, Gilles Mathieu, Daniel Lanthier, Sylvain Laplante, René Charlebois, Jean-Guy Bourgouin, Pierre Provencher and Guillaume Serre based on accusations of murder, drug trafficking and gangsterism will be analysed further.
The trial of the previously mentioned accused was treated in the Cour Supérieure du Québec by Judge Régean Paul, Prosecutor André Vincent and Defense lawyer Louis Belleau. It was treated in a Superior Court because the crimes are referred to as most serious and classified as “Supreme Court exclusive indictable offences” (Goff, 2017, p. 63). All in all, this trial lasted 66 days in front of a jury, heard testimonies from a total of 155 witnesses and deposited 534 pieces of conviction. The outcome of the trial that ended on the 11th of September 2003 was conviction on the basis of their guilty pleas regarding 13 homicide’s, drug trafficking and gangsterism. Resulting in imprisonment for 25 years ( Boisvert et al., 2003, p.B2). Although our justice system’s primary goal is for the punishment to be proportionate to the crime committed, the sanction should have been lengthier considering the offenders were all repeat offenders (Goff, 2017, p.15). Although it is known knowledge, it could not be proven beyond any reasonable doubt that they had been repeat offenders.
Criminology seeks to explain the causes of a crime in a multidisciplinary way because different people have varied views on crime (Walklate, 2011, p.2). For the purpose of this research essay, I will therefore relate how the acts committed by these criminals convicted during the trial of the police investigation Printemps 2001 can be viewed from three different perspectives. Firstly, these deviant behaviours will be analyzed from a sociological perspective in order to understand how these “criminals” could have been socialized into deviants through the social control theory, the social process theory and labelling theory. Secondly, the psychological aspect will be raised and developed to understand how the modelling theory, attachment theory, behavioural theory and psychoanalytic view of criminology can help predispose humans into deviants. Finally, the deviant behaviours will be explained from a biological standpoint. As such, this work supports the “theoretical approach” of positivism as it seeks to “ explain and predict” behaviour that are believed to emerge from outside of the individual’s control (Walklate, 2011, p.7).
|Pic © Hells Angels|
The social learning theory supports the fact that weak social ties and positive reinforcement behaviours towards deviance in various contexts such as family, school or friends are what increases the likelihood of individuals to result to deviant activities. The modelling theory sustains that future deviants are raised in a social setting where criminality is already present and therefore, deviance becomes normalized. Both these theories resemble themselves because they state that deviant behaviours are reinforced by the social contexts in which certain people evolve. A psychologist would view the crimes for which the members of the Hells Angels were accused; gangsterism, murder and drug trafficking as a cause of “observational learning, positive reinforcement, and the development of a system of beliefs justifying deviant behavior” (Lenzi et al., 2015, p.387). In this case, these members would have learnt their devious ways from family and, or friends through an observation of, for example, an excessive amount of violence within their environment. Consequently, the future Hells Angels gang members would have been witnessing this in their everyday lives and thus, would have started showcasing “a low perception of guilt for potential deviance, a higher tolerance of deviance, and the use of neutralizing and moral disengagement strategies to justify antisocial behavior” (Lenzi et al., 2015, p.388). As stated by Alleyne & Wood in their research on “psychological and behavioral characteristics of gang member”, the latter are factors that increase the risks of being “affiliated with a gang” (Lenzi et al., 2015, p. 388). The crimes committed by the individuals in the case study of Printemps 2001 can therefore be explained by the argument that the accused were surrounded by highly deviant contexts and that these behaviours thus became normal and acceptable.
Studies have shown that weak social bonds within a family can lead to an individual having low levels of empathy and low self-esteem. These are significant factors that can lead someone into becoming a gang member. In an article published by Stretesky and Progrebin on gangs and gun violence, they analysed that young people affiliated to gangs said that the gang’s in which they were members provided them with “opportunities for companionship and support” and made them feel that their respective gangs provided them with a feeling of reliability on others in hard moments (Lenzi et al., 2015, p. 387).
In 1916, Freud published an analysis that he named “Criminality from a Sense of Guilt”. In his work, he suggests that crime is committed by individuals with “tremendous unconscious guilt and overdeveloped superegos who seek to be caught and punished” (Belser, (n.d.), p.1). This can be applicable to the Hells Angels in a sense that they constantly commit acts of crime and as such, criminality results in a normal behaviour and way to resolve issues. Because deviance is a recurrent activity for this criminal organization, the sense of guilt becomes nonexistent. Furthermore, to support Freud’s statement that criminals have overdeveloped egos, the behaviours showcased by Maurice Boucher are the perfect example. Maurice Mom Boucher is the leader of the Hells Angels and the mastermind behind the idea of declaring war to the opposing gang, the Rock Machines, to obtain the control of the drug market. He has a history of convictions in the criminal justice system but in 1998, when he was trialled for the murder of two prison guards, he was declared not guilty. That same night, he received a round of applause from the crowd at the Bell Centre, celebrating his victory. He constantly showed himself in public and did not miss an opportunity to smile when the cameras were on him; he even smiled on his mugshot (Blanchet, 2017, p.176). This example supports the argument that the members of the Hells Angels feel untouchable and demonstrate a big ego. It can almost seem like by showing themselves in public and smiling at the cameras, they believe the criminal system will never be able to dismantle their organization and are making fun of the police by showing them that they will never be able to stop them.
Attachment theory is qualified as a “behavior associated in the formation of significant relationships” (Nugent, 2013). Bowlby illustrates this through children’s attachment to their caregivers and their feeling of distress when they are separated (Nugent, 2013). The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is one that reinforces the theory of attachment of a person to their club. Sony Barger, founder of the Hells Angels California, forwards that being part of this criminal club dominates someone’s life to the point of excluding every other aspect that isn’t the Motorcycle Club and that “their identities are closely tied to both their bikes and their club” (Quinn, 2001, p.382). This bond to the club is also showcased through their multiple tattoos, jewelry and clothing that sport logos and colors of the club. The logo, Angels Forever, Forever Angels signifies that the members of the Hells Angels MC are a fraternity that support one another through life and death (Blanchet, 2017, p.41). Sony Barger states that the typical biker has an introvert type of personality and that the club is built of likeminded people. As such, their bonds are intensified by their rejection from society and their loyalty and fraternity is due to their distrust for the outside world (Quinn, 2001, p.384). As mentioned previously, Maurice Boucher was the mastermind who declared war to the Rock Machines in order to gain control over the province’s drug trafficking. In this sense, because all of these members have a tightly knitted bond, they were all willing to risk their own lives and commit murders, for which they were convicted in the trial of Printemps 2001. In sum, these deviants are in no need of the white picket fence life because they have all they need within the Motorcycle Club.
Behavioural theory is composed of three factors that lead to a certain behaviour; the attitudes towards the behaviour, the subjective norms and the perceived behavioural control. The attitudes towards the behaviour, in other words, the positive or negative evaluation of the behaviour and its outcome. The subjective norms are the types of pressure an individual feels from their perceptions of what other people think he should do. The perceived behavioural control is the facility or difficulty to perform the behaviour (Morris, J., Marzano, M., Dandy, N. & O’Brien, L. ,2012, p. 5). The crimes for which some members of the Hells Angels were convicted in the trial case of Printemps 2001 can be explained by these same factors. Firstly, as stated by Morselli in his analysis of the case study, the beliefs about the behaviour outcome were ultimately believed to be about “climbing the ladder within the hierarchy as the motivational force driving all to participate in criminal activities” (Morselli, 2009, p.150). Secondly, the evaluation of the expected outcome would have most likely not been thought of in great depth considering deviance is a normalized behaviour for these gangs, as developed in the psychoanalytical criminology sub-section previously. Thirdly, the normative beliefs and the motivation to comply could both be caused by the pressure exerted by the club members to attain their goal and eradicate the opposing members of the Rock Machines. It can be the pressure of impression management, to appear positively to other members of the club in order to obtain a promotion of status; from hang-around to prospect for example. The behaviour can be an outcome of the perceived reward obtained during the biker war from 1994 to 2002. In fact, killing a member of the opposition guaranteed a monetary reward varying from 25 000 to 100 000 dollars (Blanchet, 2017, p. 124). For instance, one of the requirements to become a club member is to be a drug distributer on a given territory. Fourthly, the beliefs about capability and control are based on whether the deviant behaviour is easy or difficult to commit. If the rewards are higher than the risks, then the deviant will most likely pursue his criminal behaviour whereas the opposite is also true (Morris, J., Marzano, M., Dandy, N. & O’Brien, L., 2012, p.6).
|Pic © Rock Machines|
In a 2009 publishing by Eltzen, Smith and Zinn, it was discussed that most Americans actually believe the reason people are poor can be explained by a set of cultural factors. In this case, poverty would be caused by personal factors and is “inevitable, just and necessary” (2009, p.204). As such, the poorer people in society have a specific set of values and beliefs that differ from any other class. As a result of these divergent values and beliefs, deviance is explained by a cultural pattern that is taught to children from their parents and peers through socialization. Deviance in the less wealthy families was a real problematic and to resolve this issue, the welfare reform of 1996 in the United States was actually put into effect in order for the recipients to stop transmitting deviant values to their children (Smith, Eltzen and Zinn, 2009, p.203). Continuing on this thought, the deviant culture in which the members of criminalized clubs such as the Hells Angels prosper can therefore be explained by the fact that people from the lower strata of societies are more likely to be inclined in deviant behaviours such as gangsterism. Social learning theory states that learning a deviant behaviour is done through the same way as learning any other behaviour. Edward Sutherland, one of the primary thinkers of social learning theory, forwarded that learning of the deviant behaviour occurs through processes of interaction with others, imitation of others and reinforcement of the deviant behaviour (Tolle, 2017, p.871). Edward Sutherland calls this the differential association and it refers to the “shared norms and behaviours” of the individuals that spend a great amount of time together. This “association” is what brings someone to think of a deviant behaviour as being acceptable and furthermore, brings a group of people into thinking certain behaviours are normal; the hells angels resolving to murdering, drug selling and gangsterism as a way of life (Tolle, 2017, p.871). Social control theory is found whenever a group shares the same norms and values of what is right and wrong. The way the Hells Angels demonstrate a form of social control is through their policies and laws that clearly express the values of the club and the goals. “There exists, within the realm of the Hells Angels organization and its affiliated gangs, a well-established hierarchical structure and mode of function in which each individual has a role. There is also interdependence between members and the diverse crimes that they commit” (Morselli, 2009, p.149). Firstly, at the top of the hierarchical pyramid is the Hells Angels World, which ensures the good functioning of the clubs at a national level. Secondly, Hells Angels Canada has the task of assuring the good functioning of the three Canadian divisions; the West coast, the East coast and central Canada. Thirdly, there are the regional clubs, for instance; Hells Angels Montreal (Blanchet et al., 2017, p. 35).
Each club has their own hierarchy; at the top of the pyramid is the executive, composed of the most affluent members of the club, the president, the vice-president, a sergeant of arms and a secretary. Concerning the other members of the club, there are is also the implementation of a hierarchical chart. One must begin as a friend. The next step is the hang-around, where you must devote 24 hours a day to the club and always be around the motorcycle club. Then one must become a prospect which is a crucial step as you have almost become a member of the club. Usually, one year after being a prospect comes the full-patch. To be a full patch member it is required to have committed a series of crime and one of them was to kill the opposition during the war between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machines (Blanchet et al., 2017, p.36). Being a member of the club not only comes with a clear hierarchy, it also comes with a set of rules to follow. A couple of the rules are; all the members must possess a Harley-Davidson, rapes are prohibited, a year after being a full-patch member one can get the Hells Angel’s emblem tattooed and a member that leaves the club in bad standing will be executed, or have his tattoos removed or covered (Blanchet et al., 2017, p. 16). The way the club is structured and the rules that the members must comply with are a demonstration that this organized crime group shares the same values and beliefs. As such, a sociologist could explain the murder’s, the drug trafficking and gangsterism charges as inevitable for these deviants. They could not have chosen to not participate in these criminal activities because they are obliged to share the same values and beliefs.
Primary deviance occurs when someone decides to achieve the status of a Hells Angels member. A Hells Angels member usually flaunts his colours and emblem’s at all times. As a result, other people will associate their physical appearance with the label of criminal. These individuals are not only labelled but also stigmatized as criminals. As a consequence, the label and stigmatic shaming are very difficult to escape once you have embodied it. For example, in the society of the Hells Angels, once someone exits the gang life, the remaining active members of the club fear that the exited member will become a “rat” and sell information to the police. Fearing that their life is on the line, one might decide to remain within the club. As another example, the members that left the gang life behind will most likely experience difficulties in finding an occupation because of their past. A sociologist could argue that because someone has been labelled as such, they were no longer able to escape the label and live a “normal” life. Therefore, these deviants would have resulted in secondary deviance because the gang life is all they knew; it assured them a certain protection, guaranteed an income and is where they felt accepted.
A second study conducted by Eysenck argues that the capacity to be conditioned is hereditary because it is influenced by parts of the nervous system that are ascribed at birth. Considering that conditioning, through forms such as praising or punishing, leads to moral behavior is therefore also a predisposing aspect to crime because criminals/introverts condition slower than extroverts and consequently do not respect the morals of behaviour as much. Eysenck’s hypothesis was tested on a sample of a total of 101 children, some of who were introverted and others extroverted, all growing up in the same environment. This study showed that the introverted kids were more likely to resolve to theft and prostitution, whereas the extroverted kids had a better chance of not resulting in behaviour such as these and being able to escape their faith. As such, the notion of “man being a biosocial organism” is put forward (Rafter, 2006, p.49). To support his arguments that crime is a biological consequence, Eysenck studied different sets of twins. For the first set he found that identical twins were “concordant in 71 percent of cases for adult crime” and that fraternal twins were in agreement for adult crime 34 percent of the time. As such, heredity would provide a critical predisposition to crime (Rafter, p.43). Regarding the convictions of the Hells Angels on the basis of murder, gangsterism and drug trafficking it is interesting to notice that some of the accused are from the same families. For example, Maurice Boucher and his son, Francis Boucher, were both convicted for murder. Two of the gang members that were murdered during the guerre des motards were Johnny and Tony Plescio, both founders of the Rock Machines motorbike clubs. Although the latter were not found guilty in this specific case trial, (Boisvert et al., 2003, B6) these examples reinforce the biological theories advances by Eysenck. Therefore, as a biological view of the crimes committed in the criminal case of Printemps 2001, the deviants would have primarily been introverts and have resulted to crime as a reason of slower conditioning.
|Kerri Krysko on her wedding day with her full patch Hells Angel ex-husband.|
Pic © Kerri Krysko
Who Are The Victims?
|R.I.P. Daniel Desrochers, 11 yrs.|
Pic © La Presse
|Pic © Hells Angels|
Ainsworth, M., Silva. M. B. (1970). Attachment, exploration and separation. Child Development(41). 49-67.
Beaver, K. M. & Walsh, A. (Eds.). (2016). Biosocial theories of crime. New York: Routledge.
Belser, A. (n.d.) The Re-emergence of psychoanalytical criminology. Cambridge Institute of Criminology.
Blanchet, J.N. & al. (2017). Le livre noir des Hells Angels. Montréal, QC : Les éditions du Journal.
Boisvert, Y. et al,. (2003). Motards la saga du mégaprocès. La Presse, cahier spécial. P.B2-B8.
Cherry, P. (2005). The biker trials : bringing down the Hells Angels. Toronto, ON: ECW press.
Eltzen, S., Smith, K. E. & Zinn, M. B. (2009). Social Problems: cultural inferiority (11th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Goff, C. (2017). Criminal justice in Canada (7th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson Education.
Hopper, C. B. & Moore, J. ( 1983). Hell on wheels: the outlaw motorcycle gangs. The journal of American culture(6). 58-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.1983.0602_58.x
Journal of Correctional Education. (2003). Physically determined crime: an anti-aemocratic aotion. Journal of correctional education(54). P.123.
Kushner, H. (2013). Deficit or creativity: Cesare Lombroso, Robert Henz, and the meaning of left-handness. Laterality(18). p. 416-436. doi: 10.1080/1357650X.2012.697171
Lenzi, M. & al. (2015). Adolescent gang involvement: The role of individual, family, peer, and school factors in a multilevel perspective. Aggressive behavior(41). p.386-397. doi: 10.1002/ab.21562
Morselli, C. (2009). Hells angels in sprintime. Trends organ crim(12). 145-158. doi:10.1007/s12117-009-9065-1
Morris, J., Marzano, M., Dandy, N. & O’Brien, L. (2012). Forestry, sustainable behaviours and behaviour change: Theories. Forest Research. 1-23.
Quinn, J. F. (2001). Angels, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Pagans: The evolution of organized crime among the big four 1% motorcycle clubs. Deviant behavior(22). 379-399. doi:10.1080/016396201750267870
Rafter, N. H. (2006). H. J. Eysenck in Fagin’s kitchen: the return to biological theory in 20th- century criminology. History of the human sciences (19). 37-56. doi: 10.1177/0952695106069667
Renaud, D. (2016). Cellule 8002 vs mafia, l’histoire jamais racontée. Montréal, QC : Les éditions La Presse.
Sher, M. & Marsden, W. (2005). The road to hell: how the biker gangs are conquering Canada. Sage Publications(1). 219-237. doi: 10.1177/1741659005054026
Tolle, H. (2017). Gang affiliation as a measure of social structure in social learning theory Deviant behaviour(38). 870-878.doi:10.1080/01639625.2016.1206712
Walklate, S. ( 2011). Criminology, the basics. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
About Keisha Tomasik
Keisha Tomasik studied at Bishop's University located in Quebec, Canada. Criminological Perspectives: Quebec 1% Biker Wars was written as part of a term paper for a course titled SOC208 Criminology in the Department of Sociology.
Call For Submissions!
Would you like to be a Guest Contributor?
Say What? is always looking for quality contributions!