Friday, May 14, 2010
Appeal denied for man caught with cocaine stash
Manitoba's highest court has rejected the appeal of a British Columbia man who was caught with the largest cocaine stash in Manitoba's history.
James Oddleifson claimed he was wrongly convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking and should have been granted a new trial. In the event he lost that argument, Oddleifson claimed his 10-year prison sentence was excessive and should be reduced to as little as 61/2 years.
The Court of Appeal rejected both bids this week. They also denied a Crown appeal to have Oddleifson's sentence raised as high as 15 years, meaning both the original verdict and penalty will stand.
"The accused has not been able to demonstrate any error in his reasons that would warrant appellate intervention," Justice Richard Chartier wrote in the decision.
Oddleifson was arrested in July 2004 after a routine stop on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Winnipeg. RCMP found 46 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a van, with a street value of about $3 million.
Co-accused Derek Laviolette, was acquitted of the same charge. Queen's Bench Justice Murray Sinclair ruled Laviolette raised "a reasonable doubt" in his mind by taking the stand and claiming he had no idea the drugs were in the vehicle.
Oddleifson tried to exclude all the evidence during his trial based on what he claimed was an illegal search and seizure. Sinclair refused. Oddleifson never took the stand to testify, which the appeal court said left no question about his guilt.
"I can readily conclude that the evidence before the trial judge in its totality, and absent any explanation from the accused, permitted him to infer beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had knowledge of and control over the drugs that were hidden in that van," said Chartier.
Headingley RCMP said they stopped Oddleifson's vehicle, which was travelling east towards Winnipeg, after it made an abrupt lane change. Laviolette did not have a driver's licence, saying he had lost his wallet in Calgary.
An RCMP officer told court she had grounds to issue a ticket for failing to produce a licence. The men said they were headed to Toronto to pick up items for a friend at McGill University. The officer said she became suspicious because McGill is in Montreal. Other Mounties arrived and the two were split up to be quizzed. RCMP searched the vehicle and found 46 individually wrapped kilogram bricks of cocaine.
Oddleifson was granted bail pending his appeal last year but will now be taken into custody to serve his sentence.
I completely disagree with a 10 year sentence. That is overly punitive! I believe that only dangerous offenders should be in secure custody and this man, is not dangerous. I believe that drug offenders should receive much less prison time. The longer periods of imprisonment actually increase recidivism and often are the schools of crime in causing minor offenders to become more involved in drugs and gangs and more entrenched in the criminal lifestyle. What purpose will prison have on him? Only a negative one. Prison is a negative environment with negative influences which fails to encourage, foster or facilitate rehabilitation or reform. I would suggest a minimum security prison for much less time, such as 2 years or less.