Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Drug sting puts two men -- football coach and cancer survivor-- in prison

A respected football coach and a cancer survivor are headed to prison after admitting their involvement in a Hells Angels drug and weapons smuggling operation.
Edwin Panting and Eric Sandberg were two of the most unlikely suspects nabbed last winter in an undercover police sting dubbed "Project Divide". The well-educated men had no prior criminal records or substance abuse issues and came from strong family backgrounds with plenty of community support. Neither had direct ties to the outlaw gang but were drawn in by others.
"The sole motivation here was greed," Crown attorney Chris Mainella told court on Wednesday.
Panting, 25, and Sandberg, 28, were both sentenced to four and-a-half years behind bars, in addition to six months of time already served. Their guilty pleas mean 12 of the 31 suspects have now resolved their cases. Others caught in the criminal net included a former RCMP officer and the cousin of an NHL hockey player.

Panting was a talented football player who had been working as the defensive back coach for the provincial junior team over the past four years, said Mainella. Only days before his December 2009 arrest, Panting had been in talks with Sisler High School about helping to coach their football program.
Police had been monitoring him for several months after he crossed paths with secret agent Michael Satsatin, a former Hells associate who agreed to work for the police in exchange for more than $450,000 and witness protection.
Panting wasn’t an original police target but came onto the radar when he approached the agent in May 2009, telling him he had access to high-quality cocaine that would be 80 per cent pure. He eventually agreed to sell the agent five ounces for $4,500, which went down in the parking lot of the Boston Pizza restaurant on McPhillips Street. The drug he claimed would be "primo" was actually only 14 per cent pure, court was told.
"There seems to be an element in Winnipeg’s drug sub-culture that wants to sell really bad cocaine to increase their profits," said Mainella.
"Who can you trust these days?" replied Queen’s Bench Justice Brenda Keyser.
Panting apologized in court for letting down his family and friends through a series of "poor choices", which included working as an "independent" drug dealer in Winnipeg.
"It is very sad to see someone like you come before me. You’ve probably screwed up your chance of being involved (in football coaching) for quite some time," said Keyser.
Sandberg’s involvement was more extensive - he facilitated the repayment of an $11,000 debt between the agent and a British Columbia drug dealer, sold several thousand ecstasy pills to the agent, and claimed to be able to import several high-powered weapons on request, including a rocket launcher. However, no weapons were sold.

Defence lawyer Gerri Wiebe said her client was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago and was undergoing extensive treatment, including chemotherapy, at the time of his involvement. He grew up with the agent in Charleswood and had been friends for years. He got criminally involved thinking it was an easy way to make money.
Sandberg also apologized in court Wednesday. His health continues to be a major question mark as he heads to prison, considering his type of cancer only has a 35 per cent survival rate.
"It’s hard to imagine how this came to this, someone with your background and family support," said Justice Shawn Greenberg.

Neither of these men should be in prison! Especially for 4 and a half years!! This is why drugs need to be legalized. It would end the war on drugs. We should NOT be imprisoning non-violent offenders, such as these two men. Imprisonment does not serve any purpose. Only those individuals who pose a great danger to society should be imprisoned, and not for lengthy periods. This is not justice. This is revenge. This sentence for these men sickens me. Far too harsh! If there is no mandatory minimum, the Judge should have better considered all of the mitigating circumstances in these cases, such as no prior record, well-educated, strong family backgrounds and community supports. Prison should always be a last resort and should NOT be over-relied upon. The least restrictive measures should always be considered before prison and in this case, they were not, which is unfortunate. These men are not dangerous, do not pose a risk to society and are not violent. Therefore, prison time is NOT warranted. Prison will likely negatively impact them, with the environment, influences, subculture, gangs, drugs, pro criminal attitudes and behaviours, etc. Prisons also offer little rehabilitation and offenders are released with little assistance.  It is also concerning that the one man with cancer will be in prison as adequate medical services are usually not offered. This man needs help. Prison is not appropriate.

I would have sentenced both of these men to a conditional sentence of 2 years in the community, where they could perform community service work, etc. That would have been a more appropriate sentence, as opposed to prison.

People willing to put drugs in their bodies generally know the risks. Dealers are only providing to a market that is already present in society. If drugs weren't prohibited, they could be better regulated and people would be able to buy them in a safer, government run facility and know what they are actually getting as opposed to relying on the black market for drugs comprised of violent gangs and dealers, where the risks are much greater. Prohibition causes problems and further harm. Besides, legal drugs prescribed by doctors such as oxycontin, do more harm than street drugs. Most street drug related deaths are caused by other factors, not the actual drugs themselves. The legalization of drugs would put drug dealers out of business, reduce prison overcrowding, unclog the courts, and lessen drug distribution crimes because these activities would become lawful. The cost of drugs would be reduced and addicts would commit fewer crimes to pay for their habits.  Drugs are no worse than alcohol or everyday prescriptions drugs. The gov't should not be allowed to control what people wish to put into their own body. The cost of drugs would be drastically less than what dealers sell them for if they were sold and controlled by the gov't. There would be no need to rob and steal for cash as the drugs would be inexpensive.

If you do not know the severely negative affects that prohibition has on society then you should not be trying to make an arguement that has no merit. The war on drugs will never suceed because it is pointless. Alcohol is far worse than most of the drugs on the street an yet it is gov't controlled. There is no reason why these drugs should not fall under the same category.

There are already opiates in prescription drugs. Drugs such as heroin are just that, opiates.

Also as far as drug "addiction" goes, there is no such thing. There is only the choice to reuse. The same applies to an alcoholic. They are only alcoholics cause they choose to keep drinking, not because they can't go without. Crack heads are crack heads because they choose to be, not because they are addicted. I know several people who have experimented with hard drugs and not one of them ever became "addicted". All of them are good members of society. What they did on their own time was none of the government's business. Prohibition is a violation of our rights.

Put the gangs out of business: Legalize drugs 

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