Kelowna theft spree lands accused in prison for 18 months - InfoNews

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Kelowna theft spree lands accused in prison for 18 months

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February 15, 2019 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - Chadwick James claims he received a detox after his birth because of his mother's drug use. His lawyer claimed he's a hard worker who's tried to overcome a difficult upbringing. He's struggled with drug addiction his life, although he had a long stretch of sobriety in his 20s. But a recent relapse sent him spiralling into crime last year, resulting in a year-and-a-half prison sentence today.

James, 31, appeared in Kelowna court via video on Feb. 15 to hear his sentence for a series of crimes committed in 2018. James pled guilt to multiple charges of theft, possessing break-in instruments, using stolen credit cards and mischief.

Crown lawyer David Ruse pointed to numerous crimes James committed over seven months in 2018, including stealing license plates on May 23. Ruse said police were call to an underground parkade on Aug. 23 where they found James hiding under a car. He was carrying several break-in tools. When asked about the tools, James said, "I'm a drug addict."

Ruse said police were called to another parkade on Oct. 4 after someone reported $1100 worth of clothing had been stolen from their vehicle. Officers identified James using security footage, determining that he'd used a pry bar to force his way into the parkade and loot through two vehicles. James had been in police custody less than 12 hours before the incident.

According to Ruse, one of James' biggest thefts happened in Penticton on Oct. 8. James broke into several vehicles and stole wallets, using their credit cards at a nearby liquor store. Police detained James and found video footage of him using a stolen debit card at the store. He also tried to shoplift a bottle of whiskey.

Ruse said James followed up his wallet theft three days later when he tried to steal a car on Oct. 11. A group of friends returned their parked vehicle on Ellis Street and found James inside apparently trying to hot wire it. The locks had been punched out. The group detained James, who apologized to them while they waited for the police to arrive.

On Nov. 15, James was caught using a stolen credit card at a convenience store in West Kelowna. According to Ruse, on Dec. 13 James ran into a string of bad luck when he tried to steal another vehicle. Police were conducting surveillance of a building at 4:15 p.m. on Dec. 13 when an officer spotted James driving a Ford Escape. The officer recognized James and knew the suspect, who was under house arrest at the time, couldn't be on the streets after 4 p.m. The officer apprehended James, who dropped a can of bear spray. Police ran the vehicle's plates and discovered it had been reported stolen.

Ruse said James' criminal record was moderate, pointing to theft offences from 2006.

"He is no stranger to property crime," he said.

Ruse said the Crown was seeking 24 months in prison for James. The accused's lawyer, Tiffany Zanatta, disagreed with the Crown, asking Judge Cathie Heinrichs for a sentence of six to nine months. Zanatta said her client, who identifies as Metis, is trying to live the world of drug addiction behind.

"He's hoping to move on with his life," she said. "The road to recovery is not a straight line."

Zanatta said James' crimes were unsophisticated and fuelled by drug addiction, putting them on the lower end of severity. She noted the large gap in his criminal record and the fact he entered guilty pleas early in the trial process as points in his favour for a lighter sentence.

James, who quietly observed the proceedings through his video screen, briefly spoke in his defense. He apologized for his actions and said he wants work towards sobriety.

"The only thing I can do is move forward," he said.

Before passing sentence, Judge Heinrichs noted her surprise that there was no Gladue report submitted in the proceedings given James' Metis status. She spoke directly to James as she explained her thought process for reaching a decision. She noted his willingness to accept responsibility as a mitigating factor while also pointing to his history of theft as an aggravating factor.

"Property is an important concept," she said.

Judge Heinrichs split the difference between the two requested sentences, settling on 18 months in prison, followed by a year of probation. James will serve the full sentence as he has no credited time served.


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