A Kelowna man who is the first person in B.C. to be convicted under a law targeting criminal organizations saw his 10 year prison term shortened because of poor conditions in jail.
On Monday afternoon, Thomas Donald Fraser, 34, was handed eight years for trafficking cocaine in the summer of 2006 and two years for instructing to commit crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.
But because he’s been in custody since his 2007 arrest, he is eligible for two for one credit for time already served, and also successfully argued for “enhanced” credit for the “difficult” conditions he endured in jail.
On at least five occasions he was brought to Kelowna in error, spending unnecessary time the noisy RCMP cells and losing his bunk at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
He also lived in units that initially had 20 inmates, as they were designed for, but now have 40. The number of guards haven’t changed, and the result of the overcrowding is more assaults and more lock downs, said Justice Geoffrey Barrow.
Fraser also got adult chicken pox while in custody and didn’t get medical attention for a week.
Barrow credited Fraser 73 months for time already served and added on another five months as his enhanced credit for jail conditions.
That means Fraser is left with a two and a half year sentence for trafficking and one year for the criminal organization charge.
Meanwhile, 31-year-old Jason Herrick, who has been on bail since the arrests, was handed a total of four and a half years for trafficking and committing crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.
The sentencings mark the first time the criminal organization law, enacted in 2006, has been successfully prosecuted in this province, say RCMP.
While the law is aimed at the larger organized crime groups, by definition it includes groups of three or more whose main purpose is facilitating or committing serious offences which would likely result in one or more members of the group receiving a material benefit.
In the summer of 2006, Fraser arranged to purchase kilograms of cocaine and then had Herrick, his cousin, break them down to ounce level and distribute it to other members of the organization, who sold the drugs to street level traffickers.
In a two month period, the group sold some 529 ounces of cocaine and also flipped two kilograms of cocaine to another buyer.
It’s estimated that the group was bringing in $50,000 to $75,000 a month.
During sentencing, Barrow said the fact Fraser was on bail for another drug offence at the time of these offences was an aggravating factor and also highlighted the incidence of violence and threats of violence Fraser made, purportedly while under the influence of cocaine.
But he also said Fraser’s performance in jail was “remarkable” and that rehabilitation “is a significant and achievable goal.”
Fraser was described by guards as “compliant and well-behaved” and he also helped start a creative writing program at KRCC, as well as a program to help inmates about to be released back into the community.
Barrow ruled that the appropriate sentencing range for both offences Fraser was convicted of was 10 to 15 years.
If not for his efforts to rehabilitate himself in jail, said Barrow, his sentence would be at the upper end of that range.
Instead, he ruled the global sentence should be 10 years.
Meanwhile, Herrick, who clutched the hand of his bride of 10 months during much of the proceedings, was given three and a half years for trafficking and one year for the criminal organization charge.
“Your sentence needs to reflect your lesser role in this organization,” said Barrow, also highlighting Herrick’s lack of a previous criminal record.
Still, he was not impressed with Herrick’s “odd sense of entitlement” and belief that the police were wrong to not arrest him earlier.
“It is apparently not enough that the law prohibits drug dealing,” said Barrow.
In addition to the jail time, the duo are subject to firearms prohibitions and must also provide a sample of their DNA.
As well, Barrow ordered that Herrick’s car, scales, cell phone and some $71,500 seized during the investigation be forfeited.
Two other men remain before the courts in relation to the same investigation, and are expected to appear before a judge again next month.