Alleged gang member appeals gun conviction
Alleged gang member Hans Eastgaard should have his conviction overturned for possessing a loaded, prohibited firearm he ditched in a cul-de-sac more than two years ago, his lawyer argued Wednesday.
Jennifer Ruttan said there was no evidence he knew the handgun was loaded.
She acknowledged in her argument before the Alberta Court of Appeal that because Eastgaard had the gun in his hands for two or three seconds that may be enough to prove possession, but not knowledge it was loaded.
“It is an essential element of the charge that the individual know the object was either a prohibited weapon — a firearm — or a weapon possessed for a dangerous purpose,” Ruttan told the three-judge panel. “It is quite a leap to then say he knew it was loaded.”
Eastgaard, 34, was convicted of the loaded weapon charge and several others in connection with the incident on Jan. 29, 2009, in which a loaded, .38-calibre handgun, magazine and eight bullets were found stashed just off Hidden Valley Manor N.W.
Court heard that police on the ground had stopped another car and abandoned Eastgaard and his co-accused Michael Roberto, driver of the Chevrolet Suburban. However, the pair were being monitored constantly by a police helicopter that saw Eastgaard kneel and dispose of the gun.
Eastgaard, who according to court documents was associated with the FOB gang, had been under surveillance since he was wounded in a bloody Chinatown shootout on Nov. 16, 2008.
He was subsequently sen- tenced by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ged Hawco to 51/2 years in prison on all of the weapons charges.
Roberto was acquitted of the charge.
Crown prosecutor Goran Tomljanovic said it was easy for the judge to draw an inference that Eastgaard knew the gun was loaded when he ditched it.
He said both men had firearms prohibition orders, so they would have had sufficient knowledge about such weapons, and they were being followed by police that night. Eastgaard and Roberto were wearing bulletproof vests.
“The first question is, If there’s no knowledge, would he not ask what it is, if it is loaded, if the safety is on, and will it shoot me?” said Tomljanovic.
“That is part of wilful blindness, if he doesn’t ask these questions.”