December 06, 2012 - 6:39 PM
RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler likely will face little or no jail time when his sentencing comes up early next year, according to several observers, but his career as a police officer is most certainly over.
Mantler, who pleaded guilty Wednesday for assault causing bodily harm for the videotaped kick to the face of Buddy Tavares Jan. 7, 2011, may avoid incarceration because he had no prior convictions and because of his status as a police officer.
Wade Jenson, an experienced local criminal defence lawyer, refused to speak about the case specifically. Plenty of information is still unknown, including any statements from Mantler on sentencing and perhaps even an agreement by Crown and defence. But sentencing is often based on sentences handed down for similar cases so a survey of the landscape can offer a range.
"An officer facing the kind of sentence that this officer is, normally would be looking at a house-arrest situation," Jenson said. "Then the only question is how long that house arrest is."
Oliver Butterfield, also a criminal defence lawyer and a former Crown prosecutor, said that the maximum sentence for the offence is 18 months, plus a probation period for up to three years. He said someone with no prior convictions, such as Mantler, is unlikely to receive the maximum. Butterfield added that, in addition to whatever sentence Mantler receives, he also may be ordered to undergo counselling, refrain from consuming alcohol, avoid contact with designated individuals and not venture out of a certain geographic area.
Former Kelowna police chief Dave Roseberry says it is extremely unlikely Mantler will ever don a uniform again.
"I don't think any other RCMP police force would take another chance on him," Roseberry said. "There just isn't any way. I truly believe that his future will not be in police work."
He disagreed with the lawyers and thinks Mantler may see some minor jail time, despite his connection to the RCMP. He said Mantler's late switch to a guilty plea after the trial was well under way probably did him no favours.
"I don't think the guilty plea at the last hour was good for him," Roseberry said. "I thought that it should have been before that if he was going to plead guilty. He put everybody through the trial and the stress and then he pled guilty."
Roseberry said the judge may take into consideration past controversies that have dogged the RCMP in recent years, including assault and sexual harassment, see it as an opportunity to take a stand and hand down a prison sentence.
"He might be looking at the fact that it might be the time to say that this is happening too often," he said.
On the other hand, a police officer faces extreme risk in prison, Jenson said, which may limit the sentence to house arrest. Jenson's view reflects that of Tavares himself, who referred to the trial as "a dog and pony show" and doubted that Mantler would receive prison time.
"Nothing ever happens to them," Tavares said following Mantler's plea Wednesday. "It's like, 'Go home and watch TV for a month and we'll mail you the cheque.' They have an opportunity to make an example here, to send a message to all the cops that like to kick people and beat people up."
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012