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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Killer Beez gang boss Josh Masters has stalled his own case for almost four years

02:28 |

Killer Beez gang boss Josh Masters has stalled his own case for almost four years because life must be "more comfortable" in remand, police claim. Masters will appear at the High Court in Auckland later this month, where he has to apply to vacate his guilty plea on drugs and money laundering charges - something he has previously suggested he wants to do - or be sentenced. The gang boss has already been accused of toying with the system for the frequent delays in hearing his case. Masters was arrested along with 42 other members and associates of the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs in 2008 after a police crackdown on drug dealing in South Auckland. The police and Crown are now hopeful the case will progress because the 33-year-old is now being represented by experienced lawyer Ron Mansfield - his fourth lawyer.  However, Mansfield was this week non-committal about the case moving forward. ''As to whether we will [progress it], I don't know.'' May marks the fourth anniversary of Masters' arrest and police fear he may be eligible for parole soon after he is sentenced in a case they say is "laughable". A police source said life must be ''more comfortable'' for Masters on remand. The source said Masters' lengthy stay in remand may slash his end sentence as judges often give more weight to time spent there. Police had hoped Masters would get at least 10 years' jail and be forced to serve at least five, meaning he might be eligible for parole in less than a year. In September 2010, more than two years after his arrest and on the first day of his trial, Masters admitted two charges of supplying methamphetamine, one of conspiring to sell it and money laundering.  He had initially faced 17 charges but 13 were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea. Masters then wanted a disputed facts hearing before he was sentenced to argue about the amount of drugs police claim he had dealt. That took place, but before he was due to be sentenced in September 2011, Masters indicated he wanted to change his mind and vacate his guilty plea. At that time Crown prosecutor Bruce Northwood told the court that since Masters' arrest he'd had three lawyers, all of whom he had parted ways with. He had also attempted to defend himself. ''The Crown's view is he is toying with the system... The excuses offered are spurious.'' Northwood said Masters' claims that he wanted to progress the case were ''at best doubtful and at worst dishonest''. The court gave Masters until September 28 last year to make an application to withdraw his plea or secure a lawyer but he turned up, from the cells, alone and carrying a box of papers. A sentencing date was then set for last November, but Masters again had it adjourned. Masters reappeared in court in February, but again the matter was adjourned because Mansfield had only just taken over the case.

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