The fact anonymous witnesses testified against Black Power gang members was not to be held against them, a judge has ordered jurors.
Justice Graham Lang issued the instruction this morning in the High Court at Rotorua where six Black Power members are on trial facing charges of rioting, various firearms offences including shooting at police and belonging to an organised criminal group. All have pleaded not guilty.
Their alleged offending is said to have occurred on January 17 last year during a confrontation between Black Power and Mongrel Mob members on Whakatane's outskirts during a Mongrel Mob funeral procession.
The judge told the five men seven women jury the reason the witnesses were unidentifiable was a matter of law and immaterial to the defendants.
On trial are Benjamin Biddle, Stallone Harawira, Whitu Taipeti, Codie Taitapanui,
Te Reneti Tarau and Taumata Tawhai.
The anonymous witnesses gave evidence from a remote location via CCTV with courtroom screens remaining blank.
A man known only as Witness A described seeing people with blue bandanas across their faces and wearing sunglasses jumping out of bushes and throwing things at others heading towards them who were wearing red.
Hearing a rifle shot, seeing someone carrying a gun and cars speeding off, he ran to the nearest building for safety. There someone from the convoy asked him for a jack because his tyre was flat. By the time he returned with it someone from a lengthy convoy was helping the man.
He agreed with Harawira's lawyer David Niven that because they had the jack and wheel brace he'd only assumed they were changing a tyre.
Witness B told of seeing people in blue and black moving quickly down a service lane on Whakatane's Arawa Rd as a large number of vehicles in convoy approached the nearby Valley Rd intersection. Two gunshots rang out.
"Mongrel Mob guys were walking up and down the service lane, one had a tomahawk, another tyre iron, and several were looking into various premises as if they were searching for people in hiding."
A short while later he heard a shot. "There was a bit of a cheer coming from the intersection then another shot which generated a louder reaction."
During the confrontation a window in the building he was in was blown out and a vehicle damaged. Later he found a spent cartridge case on the road.
Asked by the judge to put a time frame between the two sets of shots he estimated 20-30 minutes.
Witness C told how, on seeing a sea of red, he began to record it on his phone. "I'd never seen anything like it in my life . . . I could clearly hear people saying "sieg f***ing heil and chants. A long barrelled gun was pulled out of a boot, I proceeded to run because I saw guns."
As he fled he was approached by a Black Power member and ordered to delete what he'd filmed.
"He was aggressive, really intimidating I was really scared, gangs and guns are not a good mix."
Questioned by prosecutor Richard Jenson the witness said he did what he was told to.
"I complied with everything he said, he was watching me do it [delete]."
A brief clip which he said had made its way to the cloud was played to the jury.
To Tawhai's lawyer Gene Tomlinson he agreed he'd clenched his fists because he thought he was going to be hit.
"He didn't hit me, at first he tried to take my phone . .. what he said was a command not a request."
A number of other civilian witnesses who hadn't sought anonymity also testified.
Among them was Graeme Harvey who described seeing "young fellas" wearing bandanas and balaclavas picking up rocks and bottles as they heading into bushes, hearing brakes screeching and a lot of barking and yelling.
As he was on the phone to 111 a ute speeding from the other direction, hit a vehicle in his yard pushing it into two others.
The trial, which is scheduled to take six weeks, is proceeding.