Lawyers are this week making final submissions for the sentencing of two Okanagan drug dealers caught by a precedent-setting conviction against organized crime.
Thomas Fraser and Jason Herrick were found guilty earlier this year of trafficking as well as committing crimes for the profits of their gang.
Justice Geoff Barrow’s decision was a first for B.C. courts, in that it tied the profits of drug trafficking to organized crime.
As such, Crown counsel is aiming for a stiff sentence of both men.
A 16-year sentence is being put forward for Fraser, 11 of which for trafficking and another five for connection to a criminal organization.
Herrick’s proposed 11-year sentence would be made up of eight years for trafficking and another three for the connection to a criminal organization.
“These are higher level cocaine dealers than you’d normally see,” said Crown Counsel John Walker, upon listing some of the details of the case.
Fraser and Herrick, he explained, were moving a lot of cocaine until they were busted in 2007 after a lengthy undercover operation.
“They were trafficking in in Kelowna, Penticton and Oliver,” said Walker, noting they were going through about one to two kilos a week, and bringing in a gross monthly profit of $50,000.
“Fraser was the leader and got others to traffic for him.”
And, he explained, Fraser wasn’t a benevolent employer.
Threatening “to smash heads in” the ring-leader was able to ensure that his employees didn’t mouth off, and the competition was kept at bay.
Fraser wasn’t new to the drug trade either, explained Walker. Before the 2007 arrest, where cops confiscated six kilograms of cocaine, 450 ecstasy tablets, $72,000 cash and two vehicles, he had been convicted of dealing in Penticton. That conviction came with a five year sentence, and it was while he was on bail that the new crimes occurred.
“He was not deterred by the Penticton charges,” said Walker.
“Rather than be deterred, he moved to Kelowna, changed his methods…and there was an escalation of trafficking.”
Herrick, on the other hand, was Fraser’s primary employee.
He kept ledgers, was seen moving drugs around storage units, and breaking it down from bulk quantities to smaller doses, for distribution.
While he doesn’t have a criminal record, Walker said that he turned down the opportunity to live a law abiding life by choosing crime.
While facts of the case paint Fraser a hardened criminal, his defence lawyer Doug Jevning says his client has reformed since his arrest and is looking for a truncated term of imprisonment.
“My friends’s suggestions are overly aggressive,” he said.
Fraser has been in jail since the time of his arrest, and has made an impression on numerous people within the system, said Jevning.
“Fraser has not wasted his time,” he said.
Reading from one of a number of letters submitted on Fraser’s behalf, Jevning told the court he’s not only bettered himself, but also the lives of others he was incarcerated with.
“He started a creative writing program, and an inmate pre-release program,” he said.
The pre-release program is said to have helped 100 inmates get their bearings upon being released, and was devised by Fraser after realizing that B.C. jails were dealing with a revolving door problem that could easily be remedied.
“Fraser made a list of things inmates would need to integrate successfully,” said Jevning.
Apparently many of his peers were without identification, an address upon release, access to social services and any tools to help them stay out of prison.
The work he’s doing within the system these days, is a far cry from the man who entered prison,” well entrenched in the drug culture” he said, and that among other details should be reflected in his sentence.
Jevning will continue his submissions Friday, and Herricks’ lawyer will make his as well.
Judge Barrow said he’ll be ready to make his decision next week.