Morphine addict gets 3-year jail term for two robberies

Nicholas O’Brien was feeding a $150-a-day habit, lawyer tells judge

Rosie Mullaley
Published on April 29, 2014
Nicholas O’Brien is escorted into the courtroom for his sentencing hearing at provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday. — Photo by Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

It took just 12 hours for life to change for Nicholas O’Brien.

That’s how long it took him to commit back-to-back armed robberies.

He had never been in trouble with the law before.

Now, the 22-year-old is being sent to a federal prison to serve a three-year sentence.

It was handed down Tuesday in provincial court in St. John’s. Judge David Orr gave O’Brien 1.5 credit for the 105 days he’s already served, leaving two years and 8 1/2 months left on his term.

O’Brien committed his first robbery on Jan. 16.

At around 9:45 p.m. that day, O’Brien walked into C.J.’s convenience on the Foxtrap Access Road with a knife. He was wearing sunglasses, a grey hoodie, black gloves and bandana around his face, and demanded money from the female clerk.

The clerk pressed the panic button, alerting the owner, who came out of her attached home with a baseball bat and chased him out.

A customer outside the store saw O’Brien get in a red, four-door car and rive away.

At 2:37 a.m. on Jan. 17, O’Brien walked into an Ultramar gas station on the C.B.S. highway with a knife. He once again had his face covered with a bandana. He demanded money from the female clerk and ran off with about $130.

Shortly afterwards, RNC patrol officers spotted the red, four-door car which was reported in  the attempted robbery at C.J.’s.

O’Brien, who was driving, matched the description given to officers by the female clerk at CJ’s.

Police searched the vehicle and found sunglasses, a grey hoodie, gloves and a black bandana, which O’Brien wore in the first robbery.

He was arrested and taken into custody. While in the holding cells at court the next day, he admitted to the Ultramar robbery. He told officers he was sorry for what he did.

Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Ivany recommended a 3 1/2-year jail term. She said while O’Brien has no previous criminal record, the robberies were serious offences. She said robberies are becoming all too common in the community and courts need to send a clear message that they can’t be tolerated.

Defence lawyer Michelle Coady said O’Brien has been a long-time drug user, beginning at age 12 with marijuana. She said that developed into a serious addiction to morphine. At the time of the robberies, she said, O’Brien was spending $150 a day on morphine.

However, she pointed out that O’Brien is on the waiting list for the methadone program and wants help. She said he hopes to get that help in a federal prison, where addictions programming is more available.

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