UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.
The Crown ultimately decided to strike a deal with the three men accused of killing Jonathan Bacon in 2011 due to the trial's extensive delays.
On Tuesday, Jason McBride, Michael Jones and Jujhar Khun-Khun entered guilty pleas to lesser charges, almost a full year after their trial began.
While all three were originally charged with first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder, McBride pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder, while Jones and Khun-Khun pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor David Ruse said the change in charges came after “considerable reflection by the Crown on the strengths and weaknesses of the case,” including reliance on testimony from former associates of the accused.
“Proof of some of the elements of the Crown's case relied on evidence from ... unsavoury witnesses,” Ruse said. “As with all unsavoury witnesses, there are many issues that impact their credibility and reliability.
“However from the Crown's consideration, the primary consideration is the delay in completing this trial. The adjournment mid-trial to accommodate disclosure of the Witness Protection Program's records is reaching its eight-month mark.”
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no eligibility of parole for at least 10 years. In a joint submission with defence, the Crown and defence are seeking no eligibility of parole for McBride for 18 years. With credit for presentence custody, he'll be eligible for parole in 13 years.
They are also seeking 18-year sentences for Khun-Khun and Jones, which would leave them with 10 years of additional time after credit for time already served. Ruse said 18 years is at the higher end of the range for conspiracy to murder convictions, due to several aggravating factors.
“On 30 to 40 occasions, Mr. Khun-Khun took part in reconnaissance that he knew would used to assist in the ambush and killing of the targets. Mr. Khun-Khun knew not only what was going to occur, but how it was going to occur,” Ruse said.
“It is difficult to imagine a more public place to attempt this murder than the entranceway of a large resort hotel in a tourist city in the middle of summer on a sunny Sunday.”
Reading from the agreed statement of facts, Ruse told the court how McBride and Jones drove from the Lower Mainland to Kelowna the night before the shooting, after learning Bacon, Larry Amero, and James Riach were in town. He explained how the “unsavoury witnesses,” whose names are protected under a publication ban, searched for the three targets at several bars in Kelowna, before learning they were at the Delta Grand Hotel.
The following morning, Khun-Khun, McBride and Jones, along with Manjinder (Manny) Hairan, met at an empty lot on Highland Drive North and planned the attack. Hairan was killed in a 2013 shooting that also left Khun-Khun injured.
At 12:17 p.m., the four men, driving in a Ford Explorer, pulled into the Prospera Place parking lot, with a view of the Delta Grand entrance, and waited for Bacon, Amero and Riach. At 2:38 p.m., they carried out the attack.
While the Crown and defence have agreed on sentencing for the three accused, Justice Allan Betton will deliver his final sentencing decision Wednesday morning.
ORIGINAL: 10:15 a.m.
“Guilty" ... “Guilty" ... “Guilty.”
Jason McBride, Michael Jones and Jujhar Khun-Khun entered guilty pleas in Kelowna Supreme Court Tuesday morning in connection with the 2011 gangland shooting that left gangster Jonathan Bacon dead and three others injured.
The three accused, who were all originally facing first-degree murder charges and four attempted murder charges, recently struck a deal with the Crown, in exchange for the pleas.
McBride pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Jonathan Bacon and attempted murder of Larry Amero, James Riach, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black, while Jones and Khun-Khun pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
Crown prosecutor David Ruse told Justice Allan Betton that the Crown and defence have agreed on a joint sentence of life imprisonment for McBride, with no chance of parole for 18 years, along with 15 years, served concurrently, for the attempted murder.
Ruse also said they agree Khun-khun and Jones should receive 18 years for conspiracy to commit murder.
Sentencing submissions will continue over he next couple days.
Despite the joint submission by Crown and defence, the sentence will ultimately be decided on by Justice Betton.