A grandfather whose son was murdered in a drugs feud has been jailed for his involvement in a botched attempt by the Kinahan Cartel to murder rival Hutch gang member James 'Mago' Gately.
Stephen Fowler, who was serving the suspended part of a drugs sentence at the time, is the sixth man to be jailed by the non-jury court in what the judge said was the "ongoing targeting" of Gately's life carried out in the context of a criminal gang feud.
Gately, who also survived a second attempt on his life in May 2017, had been warned by gardaí of a threat to his life from criminals who believed him to be involved in the Regency Hotel murder of Kinahan Cartel associate David Byrne in February 2016.
On Monday at the three-judge court, Fowler (62) was sentenced to six years and nine months for his "logistical" involvement in the murder plot. Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt suspended the last 15 months of the sentence for three years.
Fowler pleaded guilty last month to the single charge that he, having knowledge of a criminal organisation and "with the intention of enhancing the ability of the said criminal organisation or any of its members to commit a serious offence, namely the murder of James Gately, participated in or contributed to activities with the said offence".
'A criminal act'
The offence relates to dates between December 7th, 2016, and April 4th, 2017, at a location or locations within the State, when Gately was in Belfast.
Fowler's defence counsel, Michael Bowman SC, previously submitted that Fowler knew Estonian assassin Imre Arakas was in the country for "a criminal act" but was unaware of the plot to kill Gately.
In 2012, Fowler pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis worth €450,000 and served six years of an eight-year sentence before being released on June 7th, 2016.
The court previously heard that Fowler had taken responsibility for a debt associated with his son Eric Fowler (34), who was shot dead in his driveway at Blakestown Cottages in December 2018.
The court has heard in previous related cases that there was "ongoing targeting" of Gately and that Arakas was brought to Ireland in April 2017 to carry out the murder of Gately before being apprehended by gardaí.
Today, Mr Justice Hunt said that Fowler collected Arakas, who was already under Garda surveillance, in a van branded 'Blakestown Tyres' at Barry's Hotel in Dublin city centre and brought him to his home at Blakestown Cottages on April 3rd, 2016.
Mr Justice Hunt said that Fowler and Arakas were both arrested by gardaí on foot of a warrant on April 4th, 2017, at Blakestown Cottages in Clonsilla, Dublin 15.
The judge said that gardaí seized a Blackberry phone and matched the movements of Arakas and members of the gang to a murder plot to kill Gately. The plot involved the placing of tracker devices on cars belonging to Gately and others, including his sister, in March 2017.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the maximum jail sentence, pre-mitigation, was 15 years but placed Fowler's involvement in the "upper mid-range", which carried a nine-year sentence.
The judge said that Fowler's role in the plot to kill Gately was "logistical", that Fowler was operating under the "direction of others" and was involved in the plot as a "favour".
Mr Justice Hunt said that Fowler's involvement in the assassination plot came to an end because of "Garda intervention" and not through "withdrawal or reluctance" on his own part.
Married man with a family
In mitigation, the judge said that Fowler was a 62-year-old married man with a family and that the court was satisfied with Fowler's guilty plea and his co-operation with investigators. The judge noted that Fowler had not come to the attention of gardaí since 2017 and that he was on bail.
Mr Justice Hunt said that Fowler had "lost his own son due to [Eric] participating in criminal activity" and that Fowler had since "distanced himself" from criminal associates since his 2017 arrest.
The judge noted Fowler's age and the age he will be upon his release from jail and said there was also a "realistic" possibility of rehabilitation for Fowler. Mr Justice Hunt then suspended 15 months of the sentence for three years, during which time Fowler will have to be of good behaviour and keep the peace.
Fowler, who appeared in court on bail carrying a Puma bag of belongings, was put on a bond of €100 and told the registrar "I do" when asked if he understood and will obey the suspended sentence terms.
You know better than anyone else where this leads. Please, don't come this way again
Mr Justice Hunt told Fowler: "You know better than anyone else where this leads. Please, don't come this way again."
After being sentenced, Fowler said "everything they said was lies" before being led away by a prison officer.
Fowler is now the sixth man to be jailed in connection with the failed attempt on Gately. In September, senior cartel member Peter Keating (40) of Rowlagh Green, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, was jailed for 11 years having pleaded guilty to directing the activities of a criminal organisation between December 7th, 2016, and April 4th, 2017, inclusive, within and without the State under Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act.
In July, David Duffy (33) of Greenfort Lawns, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, also pleaded guilty to having knowledge of the existence of a criminal organisation and participating in or contributing to activities connected with the said offence, namely the murder of James Gately, with the intention of enhancing the ability of the said criminal organisation or any of its members to commit the serious offence, within the State between December 7th, 2016 and April 6th, 2017, both dates inclusive.
Duffy was sentenced to five years' imprisonment with a further year suspended.
In another attempt on his life, Gately survived being shot five times as he sat in his car at the then Topaz petrol station on the Clonshaugh Road in north Dublin on May 10th, 2017.
In February of this year, Caolan Smyth (30) of Cuileann Court, Donore, Co Meath, was sentenced to 20 years at the Special Criminal Court for the attempted murder of Gately and for possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. Smyth had denied both charges.
Gary McAreavey (53) of Gort Nua, Station Road, Castlebellingham, Co Louth, had pleaded not guilty to acting to impede an apprehension or prosecution by purchasing petrol and assisting in the burning out of the vehicle, a black Lexus, used in the attempted murder at Newrath, Dromiskin, Co Louth on the same day.
McAreavey received a four-year jail term with the final year suspended.
Arakas (63) was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for six years in December 2018, after he admitted to conspiring with others to murder Gately in Northern Ireland between April 3rd and 4th, 2017.