Defence say their clients aren’t a risk and should serve sentences in the community
Convicted drug traffickers Eric Edward Martin (left) and James Julius Barron were in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday for their sentencing hearing. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
They thought their involvement would be short and sweet.
All they had to do was make sure drugs from an unknown dealer were delivered from one part of the city to the other.
They’d get paid and their work would be done.
“I thought it would be a one-time thing,” Eric Edward Martin said Thursday during his sentencing hearing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.
But things were far from over for Martin and James Julius Barron.
The St. John’s men were arrested in a drug bust that saw police seize a total of 132 pounds of marijuana (at a street value of $1.1 million), five kilograms of hash (valued at $90,000) and $63,000 in cash.
Now, they could end up spending some major time behind bars for playing, what their lawyers believe were, minor roles.
Martin, 57, and Barron, 43, pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana, possessing marijuana, trafficking in hash and possessing hash.
They were nabbed Feb. 4, 2010, by RNC officers, who were conducting surveillance on the men after getting a tip they had been trafficking drugs in the city.
Martin, Barron and David Haynes were arrested outside the Travellers Inn hotel on Kenmount Road, where they were seen leaving with a large duffel bag and placing it in the trunk of the car Barron was driving.
Police found two duffel bags, containing a total of 22 pounds of marijuana, packaged in vacuum-sealed bags in half-pound increments, and five kilograms of hash.
They also arrested a Quebec man, Sylvain Perth, of Blaineville, who was staying at the hotel.
In Perth’s room, officers found a hockey bag containing 40 half-pound bags of marijuana and a black bag that had $63,000 inside.
But the biggest discovery was made in Perth’s trailer, which was parked in the hotel parking lot.
Officers found a total of 90 pounds of marijuana in five different hockey bags that were stashed in hidden compartments in the trailer.
Perth’s case was transferred to Quebec, where he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years for his involvement.
Haynes was sentenced to two consecutive 18-month sentences.
Crown prosecutor John Brooks wants Martin and Barron to each get at least two years behind bars.
“Their motivator just seemed to be greed, the potential for easy money, a quick buck,” Brooks said during the hearing Thursday. “It’s something that has to be deterred by the courts.”
He pointed out that both have criminal records and have been considered a risk to reoffend.
According to their pre-sentence reports, Martin was deemed to be a medium risk, while Barron was a high risk.
However, defence lawyers Jeff Brace (for Martin) and Scott Hurley (for Barron) said a conditional sentence would be appropriate for the men, who they say are not a risk to the public.
Martin and Barron each took the stand and told the judge why they got involved in a drug deal.
After a heart attack left him unable to work in 2009 and with his Brass Rack pool hall recently shut down, Martin said he and his family were “financially devastated.”
He said he was approached by people he met in the pool circles and asked to get involved in this drug deal.
“It was a stupid mistake that I regret … I wasn’t thinking straight,” said Martin, whose last offence was for uttering threats in 1997.
“You won’t see me back here again,” he added in his final words to the judge.
Barron’s testimony about his life was a little more detailed.
He told the court about his troubled childhood, in which he got into a life of crime as early as 11 years old.
“I’ve committed just about every crime there is, except for rape and molestation,” said Barron, who said he was also an alcoholic and was addicted to prescription drugs.
While he’s spent most of his life in jail, his longest stay was in the early 1990s, when he spent close to nine years in jail for an armed robbery.
He was 19 years old when he went in. He was 28 when he was released.
He’s been in and out of jail several times since then.
But now, he said, he’s “a changed man” and just wants to get his life back on track.
“When I was in jail, I saw guys in their 60s and 70s in there and I realized I didn’t want that to be me,” Barron said.
Barron, who was a courier in the drug deal, said he got involved as a favour to someone he knows. He wouldn’t say who it was.
“I’m never going to become a rat,” he said.
Justice Alphonsus Faour will render his sentencing decision Monday.