‘This has been a huge mistake’

Prison guard who attempted to sneak drugs into HMP apologizes

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on December 7, 2011
Former prison guard Ed Taylor was in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Tuesday for his sentencing hearing on charges laid after he was caught trying to smuggle drugs into Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A correctional officer who was caught trying to smuggle drugs inside the prison where he worked said he realizes what he did was wrong.

Now, Ed Taylor hopes to stay out of jail and get the chance to start over.

“I wish this court to know how much I regret getting involved in criminal activity,” Taylor wrote in a letter to the court.

“This has been a huge mistake on my part and I am firmly resolved to turn my life around.”

The letter was read aloud by defence lawyer John Kelly during Taylor’s sentencing hearing Tuesday at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.

In it, Taylor apologized to the court, his employer and his family. He said with the help of doctors and counsellors, he’s gained insight into his addiction problems and other mental issues.

The 32-year-old also said the birth of his son earlier this year has given him “a huge reason to remain a law-abiding person.”

“The future with him in it looks more than bright,” said Taylor, who wants to enrol in a heavy equipment course.

Taylor lost his job at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) last year when he was found with illegal and prescription drugs, along with other unauthorized items, that were destined for inside the prison.

The RNC investigation began Jan. 22, 2010, as a result of a tip that Taylor was smuggling drugs to inmates.

Surveillance was set up Feb. 22, 2010, when officers saw Taylor visiting the residence of well-known criminal Rene Seers on Campbell Avenue.

As a result, Taylor was searched by prison management when he arrived for his night shift.

They confiscated several items which are banned at the prison, including three cigarettes, a plastic bag with four pills, a crushed substance wrapped in plastic, a tube of super glue, a container of moisturizing lotion and a small pocket deodorizer. He was dismissed from his shift and asked to leave HMP.

His car was later seized by police and searched. Officers found a small quantity of marijuana, three ecstasy pills, 31 oxycodone, 38 morphine and five Clonazepam. There were 48 other pills which were not controlled substances, including Zopiclone and Quetiapine. There were also a lighter and rolling papers.

These items were contained in two prepared packages — one wrapped in newspaper and one in a magazine, which was taped up. They looked much like other packages often seen going inside HMP.

The street value of the drugs is: marijuana ($20 per gram), ecstasy ($4-$5 per pill), oxycodone 80s ($50-$90 per pill), morphine ($1-$1.50 per mg) and clonazepam ($10-$15 per pill).

However, these items cost significantly more inside HMP, where a cigarette is worth  $15-20, loose tobacco $100-150 per pouch, marijuana $200 for 1.5 grams, morphine $20 per pill, oxycodone $1 per mg, Percocet $10-$15 per pill and other pills $10-$15.

Taylor pleaded guilty to five counts of possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking. The drugs were marijuana, ecstasy, oxycodone, morphine and clonazepam.

He had already entered a guilty plea to breaching probation, which ordered him to abstain from drugs.

The condition was placed on him after he was convicted on a charge of assault causing bodily harm in June 2009.

However, Kelly said Taylor has made big efforts to improve his life this past year. He said he is getting help for his addictions to drugs and alcohol, and is being treated for bipolar, depression and ADHD.

He said Taylor has accepted responsibility for his actions and is remorseful.

Kelly said a conditional sentence would be appropriate so that Taylor can be in a better position to change his life.

He noted that being behind bars would have a negative psychological effect on Taylor, especially if he’s incarcerated at HMP, where he worked. Kelly said if Taylor is sentenced to jail, he will make a request to serve his time at a prison outside St. John’s.

“He was a peace officer and it might be harder than a civilian,” Kelly said.

However, the fact that he was a peace officer is the very reason why he should go to jail, Crown prosecutor Brenda Boyd said.

She said it was a breach of trust by a public servant.

“He had an obligation to protect the inmates and abide by the law,” Boyd said. “He clearly intended to do otherwise.”

She also pointed to the addictive nature of the drugs Taylor had.

She and co-Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves said a three-year prison term is the right sentence for Taylor.

Justice Wayne Dymond will render his decision Dec. 14.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelyCourt