Drug-addicted robber gets federal prison term for holding up pharmacy

Twenty-three-year-old was a first-time offender

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on March 13, 2014
Raquel Sonier is escorted out of provincial court in St. John’s Wednesday after she was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for holding up a drugstore.
— Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A knife-wielding woman who was stopped from robbing a pharmacy by having a garbage bucket thrown over her head will spend a lot of time in the can.

Raquel Sonier of St. John’s was sentenced to 31 1/2 months in provincial court Wednesday.

Judge Robert Hyslop gave her 42 days straight-time credit for the time she’s already served in jail, leaving 30 months on her term.

The 23-year-old pleaded guilty to armed robbery, possessing a weapon and breaching a recognizance.

She was charged after she held up the pharmacy at Shopper’s Drug Mart on Lemarchant Road Dec. 11, 2013.

That afternoon, Sonier took a cab to the store, walked behind the counter at the pharmacy, approach­ed the pharmacist on duty and demanded methodone. When the pharmacist backed off, Sonier grabbed her neck, breaking the pharmacist’s necklace.

A second female pharmacist working in a back office heard screams and ran out. When she saw Sonier with a knife in her hand, she threw a garbage bucket over Sonier’s head and kicked her, causing Sonier to buckle at the knees. The second pharmacist and two male customers held Sonier down until police arrived shortly after.

Sonier admitted to police what she did and said it was because she was a drug addict and was having withdrawal symptoms, including body chills.

Sonier had been released from jail after her initial court appearance, but was jailed Jan. 30 of this year for failing to sign in at RNC headquarters, one of the conditions of her recognizance.

Both pharmacists on duty the day of the robbery wrote victim impact statements, which were read in court by the judge. The women said they suffered emotional and psychological effects from the incident.

“I feel a loss of security at work,” wrote one of the pharmacists, who underwent counselling. “I fear it will happen again.”

Crown prosecutor Sheldon Steeves recommended a three-year sentence, noting the seriousness of the incident and the effect it’s had on the pharmacists, who he said were vulnerable because of their line of work.

Defence lawyer Jason Edwards said 30 months was more appropriate because Sonier is a youthful, first-time offender who needs help for her addiction.

He said Sonier has been abusing drugs since the age of 11 and was dismissed from the methodone program last year for missing appointments.

“That turned her recovery into a tailspin,” Edwards said. “Things were getting out of hand.”

He said Sonier has a four-year-old son and she wants to get her life straightened out.

Sonier cried when Edwards spoke of her son.

Hyslop said it was unfortunate what Sonier was going through, but what she did was serious — using a weapon.

“This could’ve been so much more serious. Fortunately, it wasn’t,” the judge said, “not due to (Sonier), but to the alertness and outright heroism of (the pharmacist).”

While Hyslop said he doesn’t want to encourage people to engage in that type of response, he commended the woman for her quick actions.

“Clearly, this is a case of a troubled young woman,” said the judge.

He said Sonier was operating with a somewhat reduced mental capacity due to her withdrawal symptoms at the time.

However, Hyslop added that she had no regard for the safety of the pharmacists, who work in a business which helps the health and safety of the community.

The sentence included a $300 victim surcharge and a 10-year weapons prohibition. Sonier must also submit a DNA sample.

 

Rgillingham@thetelegram

Twitter: @TelyCourt