Kelowna compassion club founder says he’ll die in prison

Richard Babcock, a prominent medical marijuana advocate with AIDS, hepatitis C and possibly cancer, is jailed for two years.

  • Apr. 5, 2013 6:00 a.m.

Richard Babcock

A man who once forged a path for the sick and injured to obtain relief from medical marijuana believes he will die in prison, a Kelowna courtroom heard Friday.

Richard Babcock, 53, was sentenced to two years in prison on Friday after being charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm for taking a sawed-off shotgun to the leg of a friend and shooting him, blowing apart his femur and severing a major artery.

“I feel a lot of shame about shooting Mr. Jones,” Babcock told the judge before sentencing. “I had helped a kid before that and he bailed out. After Mr. Jones, I was going to have a closed door policy.”

Babcock, 53, has a growth believed to be cancer on his liver, AIDS, hepatitis C and a condition known as esophageal varicose, in addition to weighing just 113 pounds at roughly five feet, 10 inches tall.

He refused medical tests in the lead-up to his sentencing, saying he will die behind bars anyways—a move which prompted his lawyer to argue jail time is effectively a death sentence in his case.

He is also a well-known advocate for the downtrodden and addicted, having started the Okanagan Compassion Club to provide access to safe medical marijuana. He volunteered for years with the Living Positive Resource Centre, writing a regular column for the non-profit agency’s newsletter and helping with events like the Okanagan Family AIDS Walk.

But in June of 2010, he took in an acquaintance, a younger homeless man named Peter Jones, who was actively using intravenous drugs. He watched his illicit activities for a week, then provided him with the funds to procure drugs for the pair to share.

On the evening in question, they were shooting cocaine together, even though Babcock had been clean from drug use for 12 years and claims he never slipped in that time period. It was a decision that would send him to prison, Judge Ellen Burdett said.

Just how the evening unfolded varies in the versions given to police by Jones and Babcock, but forensic analysis confirms Babcock shot Jones from four to five feet away with a sawed-off shotgun he kept in his living room.

Babcock and Jones both say Babcock was in a paranoid state caused by the drugs at the time.

Babcock maintains he felt threatened by Jones, believing he was setting him up with the drugs. His lawyer told the court Babcock asked Jones to take his shirt off to show he wasn’t hiding anything, only to return to the room and find him totally naked.

Babcock says he then pushed Jones out of the way, accidentally shooting him in the process as the gun had a hair trigger.

The version given by Jones was that Babcock was acting paranoid and became combative when he was told the cocaine Jones had purchased for the two of them had run dry. He says Babcock forced him to remove his clothing and then shot him in the leg.

Forensics determined there was no hair trigger on the weapon. Crown counsel Martin Nadon presented evidence it would have taken at least five pounds of force to shoot the gun.

Rather than weigh in on which version of the events was more probable, however, Judge Burdett opted to emphasize Babcock’s personal track record.

Though he was described as a provider who started working the streets at the age of 14, who still spends weekly time with his mentally disabled sister and dotes on all three of his siblings, Burdett said previous convictions for assault and robbery, and the fact that he was caught breaking his bail conditions in the months since his arrest, speak to a consistent disregard for the law.

“Mr. Babcock, alarmingly, even after being out on bail for this offence, did not recognize that he cannot use a weapon to defend himself. It leads me to believe he doesn’t fully take responsibility for these events,” she said.

Babcock was spotted by police with what was described as a compound bow while out on bail. His lawyer told the judge it was actually a broken crossbow, though the judge noted he contradicted himself by saying Babcock believed he needed it for protection from the drug-using tenants he was overseeing as the manager of an apartment building.

She noted there was no need for him to keep a sawed-off shotgun in his living room, particularly not one he had sawed the barrel off of himself; and told him she believes his health will be well cared for in prison.

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