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Dustin Etheridge could face a maximum prison sentence of 18 years for combined charges
Justice Carl Thompson was careful to make sure Dustin Etheridge understood what he was doing Thursday when he admitted to trying to bribe an RNC officer and breaching a court order two years ago.
“Have you had a chance to review the matter with your lawyer? Has anyone threatened or pressured you into changing your pleas? Are you under the influence of alcohol or drugs today?” Thompson queried, asking Etheridge the questions required by law.
Lastly, the judge asked Etheridge if he understood that by pleading guilty he could face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years for the bribery charge and four years for the breach.
“Yes, Your Honour,” replied Etheridge, who appeared in the St. John’s courtroom via video.
His lawyer, Erin Breen, was in the courtroom along with prosecutor Jessica Gallant.
Etheridge pleaded guilty to the two charges as the court clerk read them aloud from the indictment: attempting to use money to bribe an RNC officer into interfering with the administration of justice on Dec. 3, 2017, and breaching a probation order the same day.
Gallant withdrew a handful of other charges as part of a plea deal.
Etheridge, 27, had been scheduled to go to trial on the charges earlier this week, but indicated instead he would change his pleas.
It’s one of multiple matters Etheridge has before the courts. He has been charged with plotting to murder a man with alleged ties to the Hells Angels, as well as a number of offences related to carrying a loaded handgun and breaches of court orders. For all those charges, he is accused alongside 34-year-old John Squires.
Etheridge also faces charges related to the trafficking of cocaine, conspiring to traffic cocaine, possessing more than $5,000 in cash obtained from selling the drug, dangerous driving and breaching a court order, laid as part of Operation Tarantula.
A joint RNC/RCMP operation, Tarantula originated with an investigation into Etheridge’s suspected criminal activity and resulted in the arrest of a number of people.