A B.C. Supreme Court judge faces a difficult decision, crafting a custodial sentence for an ailing grandfather who pleaded guilty Monday to trafficking cocaine.
A pair of Shuswap residents, Robert Ehlert, 72, and Richard Maki, 42, entered guilty pleas on various counts involving the sale of crack and powdered cocaine.
Ehlert’s sentencing, however, was put over until Wednesday, allowing Justice Hope Hyslop time to review case law relating to offenders with compromised health and trafficking convictions.
The offences took place in November 2012, when a female RCMP officer, working under cover, visited Ehlert’s Lee Creek home looking for another male.
Ehlert told the undercover officer that the man she sought had been kicked out. When she said she wanted to purchase cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, Ehlert said he could help her. Maki, who was also present, gave her his cellphone number for reference. Ehlert said they deal only with select people.
When the officer returned the next day, Ehlert sold her more cocaine, the total amounting to about $150.
The next time, police arrived with a search warrant and found cocaine worth $2,000 in rock and powder form, as well as a quarter kilogram of cannabis, a pair of scales and “score sheets” detailing drug deals.
In a joint submission to Justice Hope Hyslop, Crown and defence counsels sought a 90-day sentence for Maki, who was born to a heroin addict, suffered sexual abuse as a toddler and has had lifelong addiction issues. He will serve the time on weekends at KRCC in recognition of his casual job as a carpenter.
Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi sought a harsher penalty for Ehlert, 10 months’ jail. After recent amendments to the Criminal Code, the courts can no longer impose conditional sentences for drug-trafficking offences, he noted.
“It’s troubling the accused is still involved in these activities at his age,” Varesi said, noting that the drug score sheets documented an active business in a small community.
He acknowledged that Ehlert has health issues. The man fought prostate cancer for seven years, though it’s in remission, was recently diagnosed with a heart rhythm disorder and suffers from chronic depression. The depression was exacerbated by a close friend’s suicide six years ago. Ehlert found the body and attempted CPR for 40 minutes before an ambulance arrivfed.
Varesi said he was sympathetic but that Ehlert’s health issues are manageable.
“Well, I don’t know if they’re manageable, manageable in a jail,” Hyslop said.
Defence counsel Don Campbell said prison would affect Ehlert’s health, but “staying in the community is not going to be fun.” House arrest would involve frequent police checks, he added.
He proposed 10 months’ house arrest plus a year to 15 months’ probation.