Jail for one; house arrest for another in drug bust

Both grew up in Jehovah's Witnesses families

Two Saskatchewan men caught transporting drugs from B.C. back home received vastly different sentences after pleading guilty Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Rueben Ehikhamen and Jadan Paluck, friends since childhood and now in their 20s, were stopped by RCMP near Merritt on March 6, 2011, for speeding.

After police pulled over the pair they detected the smell of green marijuana and searched the car. They found cocaine, marijuana and magic mushrooms valued in bulk form at $24,000.

The vehicle was in Paluck's name. He admitted to police at roadside that he agreed to transport drugs for his friend in return for payment in pot, but otherwise knew little about the contents.

Both grew up in Jehovah's Witnesses families and met at age eight through the religion.

Justice Ronald McKinnon sentenced Ehikhamen to 20 months in jail, while Paluck received a 20-month conditional sentence order. The apprentice pipefitter will be under house arrest for the first seven months.

Ehikhamen's lawyer, John Richardson, agreed with the 20 months in jail for his client, who has a criminal record mainly comprised of breaching court orders. His fingerprints were found on packaging for the drugs.

He appeared by video from Saskatchewan, where he is being held. He was arrested in March on drug and weapons charges in North Battleford, Sask., according to a news report.

Both men were raised in good homes with devoted parents, their lawyers said.

Richardson said Ehikhamen's father, originally from Nigeria, was a professor in Saskatchewan. But the youngest sibling rebelled from the Jehovah's Witnesses religion.

The lawyer said once Ehikhamen is released he wants to reconnect with his family, now in the Fraser Valley.

Based on Paluck's lesser role and lack of criminal record, Justice McKinnon ruled he should not go to jail - contrary to a submission by Crown lawyer Anthony Varesi.

Under law passed by the Conservatives since the arrest, a conditional sentence order would no longer be an option for the drug offence.

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