Armed police, underworld figures and a fascinated public are expected to converge on a courthouse in Dublin this week for what has been called Irelandgang trial of the century.
Jerry “The Monk” Hutch, 58, a well-known crime boss, will stand trial for the 2016 killing, which ignited a deadly feud between the rival gangs that is still simmering six years later.
Security is expected to be heightened at the Special Criminal Court in the months-long case that will reveal the inner workings of the Hutch cartel.
Earlier this month, prosecutors received a boost when one of the defendants, Jonathan Dowdall, struck a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Hutch. Hutch denies the murder charge, which carries a life sentence.
The case centers on an attack in February 2016: masked men disguised as police and armed with assault rifles stormed Dublin’s Regency Hotel to target rival gangsters during boxing match. They killed David Byrne, a member of the Kinahan cartel, by setting fire to a interaction of fiefdoms which claimed 18 lives between 2015 and 2018 and is still going on.
Dowdall, 44, a former Sinn Féin councillor, caused a media sensation when he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder by renting a room at the Regency to gunmen. He gave a 50-page statement to the police. He is due to be sentenced on Monday along with his father Patrick, who also pleaded guilty to contributing to the attack.
After testifying at Hutch’s trial and serving his prison sentence, Jonathan Dowdall is expected to adopt a new identity abroad as part of the witness protection program. “It’s like taking the life you’ve known and turning it upside down for you and your family,” said his lawyer, Michael O’Higgins.
The police service launched an investigation into an alleged campaign of intimidation between Dowdall and his family, with Twitter accounts calling him a “rat” and warning he had nowhere to run.
Dowdall’s decision to testify delayed Hutch’s trial, which had been scheduled to begin in early October, because it required a “fundamental reevaluation of the defense’s strategy,” Brendan Grehan said at the time. Grehan said last week that the defense is ready. “The accused really wants the trial to continue. From our point of view, it’s all systems go.”
The Special Criminal Court hears cases of terrorism and organized crime. It sits with three judges and has no jury.
Hutch will stand trial alongside Paul Murphy, 59, and Jason Bonney, 50, who are accused of aiding and abetting murder by providing access to vehicles.
Monk has been in the headlines for decades. His associates gave him the nickname based on his relatively reserved character and lifestyle: he is said to be quiet and contemplative, physically fit, rarely drinks, does not take drugs and sends his children to private schools.
“My philosophy on life is pretty simple,” Hutch told a reporter Veronica Guerin in a 1996 interview. “No betrayal. It means you don’t talk about others, you don’t gossip, and you never let people down.” Guerin was later killed by gunmen working for another criminal authority.
In a 2008 interview with RTE, Hutch said: “Yes, I have committed crimes, some of which I have gotten away with.”
Hutch’s feud with the Kinahan cartel, based in north Dublin, flared up in 2015 when a gunman killed his nephew Gary Hutch in Spain. Hutch’s gang allegedly responded by attacking the Regency Hotel. Spanish police arrested Hutch on the Costa del Sol in August 2021 as a result of an Irish extradition warrant.
The US Treasury Department struck Kinahan’s group in April when it under the sanction of seven members, including its leader Daniel Kinahan. It said the gang used Dubai as a hub for drug trafficking and money laundering in Ireland, Britain, Spain and other countries.
Irish media, citing Garda sources, say they expect Kinahan members to monitor Hutch’s trial.