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Friday, 13 January 2012

founder of Saskatoon's notorious Terror Squad street gang is out of prison and back on the streets

11:06 |


founder of Saskatoon's notorious Terror Squad street gang is out of prison and back on the streets of his hometown. Darren Harper was set free Dec. 19 on statutory release, having served twothirds of a six-year federal sentence for cocaine trafficking, according to documents obtained by The StarPhoenix from the Parole Board of Canada (PBC). The 40-year-old, who has a long history of violent and drug-related crimes dating to the early 1990s, will remain under supervision by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) until his sentence expires in December 2013. "This form of conditional release does not result from an assessment and decision by the PBC but rather is essentially automatic as provided for by law," PBC spokesperson Amy Wood said in a letter accompanying the documents. However, she noted the board does have the authority to add special conditions to a statutory release if they are considered reasonable and necessary to manage risk to the community and help the offender reintegrate. In Harper's case there are three such conditions: No alcohol, no illicit drugs and no contact with certain kinds of people. "Any meeting and/or communication, except by chance, with any person that you know or have reasons to believe has a criminal record is forbidden," says the Dec. 2 decision sheet outlining his release terms. The prohibition also extends to people who are "related to criminal activities, including criminal organizations or gangs," it adds. The document notes Harper was "officially identified as the founder" of an "aboriginal street gang." The name of the gang was redacted from the document before it was released to the newspaper, along with the names of the various institutions where he served his time, all specific references to Saskatoon and the names of other individuals. "The board notes that you will return to live with your spouse and children in (redacted)," it says. "Despite the fact that this is where your gang operates, you remain confident that the current members will accept your desire to disaffiliate as they did with (redacted). The board notes that you will be supervised by the enhanced supervision unit (ESU) in (redacted). "While you have expressed a desire to change, you may underestimate the continued influence they may have on you," the board warned, referring to current members of the gang. "For this reason it is vital that you not associate with criminalized individuals and continue to distance yourself from former criminal associates." Saskatoon police are aware of Harper's presence in the city, but reluctant to make any public comment on it. "We will assist in assuring his conditions are followed, as we would with any other individual on conditions in our community," spokesperson Const. TishaRae Stonehouse said. Harper made a failed bid for early release last March. The parole board's April 21, 2011, decision sheet denying his application noted his "reintegration potential" had been rated as low and a psychological assessment in 2008 had identified him as having an anti-social personality disorder. "There are some concerns regarding your behaviour during the current sentence. You are the subject of an important number of security intelligence reports. Information associated you with institutional trafficking and involvement in a serious altercation between rival gangs," it noted. The April 2008 incident was a "brutal confrontation" involving about 30 inmates, according to the document. That's likely a reference to a brawl among gang-affiliated medium-security inmates in a gymnasium and yard at Saskatchewan Penitentiary on April 23, 2008, that sent 11 inmates to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, prompting media coverage and a lengthy lockdown of the institution. "You did not participate directly in the altercation but you are identified as having orchestrated and supported it," the parole board document states. "This serious incident increased your security level to maximum and led to your emergency transfer and placement to (redacted)." A CSC security intelligence report written in October 2010 said Harper was still involved in gang activities, which was "corroborated by police information stating that you are still present and very influential within that group," it adds. October 2010 was the same month Saskatoon police began investigating the slaying of Jackson McKenzie, a high-ranking Terror Squad member who was stabbed to death outside a Ruth Street bar by Randy Merasty, who had recently been ousted by the same gang. Merasty is now serving nine years for manslaughter in the killing. Officers investigating McKenzie's death obtained wiretaps on the phones of several high-ranking Terror Squad members, intercepting about two months worth of conversations in late 2010 that eventually led to the breakup of a major cocaine trafficking ring in Saskatoon. Those recorded phone calls - discussed in detail last spring at court hearings related to the drug charges that resulted against numerous people - included conversations between Terror Squad leaders and Harper, who had been transferred to a penitentiary in Quebec by then. Less than three months after those calls took place, Harper was seeking early release and the CSC's security department told the parole board he was not considered to be a "person of interest," according to the parole board documents. His case management team advised against releasing Harper at the time, but felt he was "on the right track" and showing more effort to take control of his life since his transfer to a different region. CSC staff reported that he was co-operative and participating in his "correctional planning." An aboriginal liaison officer and elder both spoke in his favour, saying they believed he was ready for day parole. Their presentations to the board "focused on your newly developed spirituality. They also told the board about your work with other offenders and the positive impact you appear to have had on others in difficulty," the decision sheet noted. "However, these changes when placed in the perspective of your long and serious criminal history remain recent. . While you deny any involvement in organized criminal activities, recent information indicates the contrary." Harper told the board he wanted to return to his home province to be with his family. "The (redacted) police department considers that you present a high risk of re-offending and danger to society, and is strongly opposed to your release in (redacted). There is fear that your return would lead to the re-emergence of violence within street gangs, as well as repercussions on the population," the board's April 2011 decision sheet says. "The community shares this opinion and is opposed to your release in the (redacted) area. In fact, the impact of your potential return in (redacted) is a matter of concern for CSC and partners."

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