KAMLOOPS - A man who told police and the court a different name than his own got away with it for a period of time, but it finally caught up with him when he was convicted of obstructing justice last week in Kamloops Supreme Court.
During a street check in 2013 Eric Bradley Charlie, 31, told police he was 23-year-old James Rocky Whitford. Without checking the name in a police database or asking for identification, the officer accepted the name and entered it into a criminal database known as PRIME.
"It is common ground that the police had no reason to suspect Mr. Charlie of anything at the time, and that he was not obliged to tell them anything, including his name. The police nevertheless made an entry in their PRIME search engine in the name of James Whitford,” Justice Mark McEwan said in his reasons for judgment on Sept. 2.
Charlie was then arrested on a charge of assault, but again gave police the name Whitford - even signing a promise to appear in court with the moniker.
"On May 5, May 6, May 14, May 27, June 8, 2013, June 22, 2013 and January 4, 2014, Mr. Whitford was arrested on suspicion of a variety of criminal activities. In each case he gave his name as James Whitford,” McEwan said. "That is to say he actively misled the police by giving a name that would dissociate him from the name attached to his past encounters with police."
In court, Charlie answered to the name Whitford for his charge of assault, including subsequent charges of possession of stolen property, theft under $5,000, possession of a weapon, identity fraud and more.
Because of a clean criminal record under Whitford, Charlie, who has an extensive record, bypassed heavier sentences when he pleaded guilty and earned roughly three months of jail time.
"The difficulty from the Crown’s perspective is that, in doing so, Mr. Charlie avoided the consequences of a record of at least 12 court appearances for, as I observed earlier, crimes leading to sentences of two and three years,” McEwan said. "He benefitted from a number of untrue representations as to the extent of his record."
Charlie’s lawyer argued the accused complied with identifying himself by providing the police a mugshot and fingerprints upon his arrest.
McEwan said if Charlie refused to identify himself, his difficulty would have prompted police to look through their fingerprint catalogue which would have found the prints for Charlie.
"Having identified himself as Whitford and come to be known to the police by that name, Mr. Charlie effectively diverted police attention away from the name Charlie,” McEwan said. “That the available identification evidence was not reconciled with Mr. Charlie’s earlier record may reflect a lack of diligence on the part of the police: it does not, however, excuse Mr. Charlie’s use of the name Whitford in the context of a police investigation where the use of the name, and thereby deceiving the police, would confer the advantage of a clean record on Mr. Charlie."
Earlier this year, Crown attempted to appeal Charlie’s sentence under Whitford and sentence him again under his real name. A judge dismissed the appeal because too much time had passed; Charlie already served most of his sentence.
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