‘Once he tried cocaine, that was it’

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Rosie Mullaley
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Man with drug addiction facing federal prison sentence

There was nothing particularly unusual about Scott Kenneth Cleary’s young life.

Scott Kenneth Cleary, who robbed two banks with a knife, was in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday for his sentencing hearing. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

“He was a typical young man,” defence lawyer Scott Hurley said.

“There was no indication in the environment he grew up in that would lead you to think anything would happen. He was a smart kid who had good grades.

“But once he tried cocaine, that was it.”

He was 17 at the time and soon became an addict.

Now 21, Cleary is facing a federal prison sentence for holding up two banks to get money to pay back drug dealers. If it was up to the Crown, Cleary would be sent to jail for three to four years.

The defence is recommending two to three years.

Whatever term Judge Jim Walsh decides on Feb. 19, it will mark the first time Cleary will see jail time.

The only conviction he has on his criminal record is a theft, for which he was sentenced to probation.

“So, this will be quite a step up from what he received before,” Crown prosecutor Elaine Reid said during Cleary’s sentencing hearing Tuesday at provincial court in St. John’s.

Cleary pleaded guilty to seven charges, including two counts of armed robbery, having his face masked, possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose and theft.

On April 29 of last year, Cleary walked into the Bank of Montreal on Elizabeth Avenue at around noon with a knife and pantyhose covering his head. He demanded cash from the female teller. He made off with between $3,000 and $4,000.

A month later, on May 24, he went into the Royal Bank of Canada in Torbay with the same knife and again demanded cash from the female teller, who said Cleary had material covering his face. He was handed the money and ran out to a car where a woman was waiting.

Bank management was unable to determine exactly how much money was taken, but estimates it was between $500 and $3,000.

Once police caught up to him, he confessed and directed officers to his house, where much of the money was recovered.

The theft charge was laid after the manager of Circle K Irving on Frecker Drive was doing inventory in March 2013 and noticed money was missing. He reviewed the security video and saw that Cleary, who was employed at the store as a clerk at the time, was not charging certain customers for groceries and scratch tickets. In all, he gave away $2,218 worth of items.

Reid said although Cleary has a limited record, a lengthy prison sentence is warranted.

“It’s severe, but so are two robberies,” said Reid, who added that the theft was a serious breach of trust.

Hurley said the thefts at the store was his way of paying back his debt to the people he owed money to for drugs. In all, he said, Cleary owed more than $10,000. Hurley said Cleary committed the crimes out of desperation.

“The walls were closing in on him,” Hurley said.

Hurley said Cleary is still a young man with hope of turning his life around. When Cleary addressed the court, he apologized to the victims and said his drug use has had a huge impact on his life.

“I’ve been clean for eight months and have cut out all negative influences in my life,” said Cleary. “But I’m still far from the person I want to be.”

Cleary said he plans to enrol in programming that will help him improve his life.

Meanwhile, Brenna Gillespie — suspected of helping Cleary in the RBC robbery — has also been charged. Her preliminary inquiry is set for February.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal

Geographic location: Elizabeth Avenue, Torbay

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