PENTICTON - A Penticton man who told court it was “a blessing to have been taken into custody” will serve 148 days in jail after pleading guilty to a number of charges including resisting arrest and theft.
Eric Thomas Frederick Bell entered the guilty pleas on two counts of personation to avoid arrest, two counts of resisting arrest, three counts of theft under $5,000 and one count of drug possession in Penticton court yesterday, May 11.
Bell was under the influence of a methamphetamine addiction when he used the identity of his best friend to elude Penticton RCMP for a month.
Defence lawyer Robert Maxwell told court his client’s life was saved when he was denied bail after being caught with 0.9 grams of fentanyl, enough, Maxwell said, to kill several people.
Crown prosecutor Nashina Devji told court it took several weeks for police to discover a man who had been arrested for a March 5 shoplifting attempt at the Real Canadian Superstore in Penticton was using false identification.
Bell made sworn statements on four occasions to police under his false identity, including a further shoplifting attempt at Shoppers Drug Mart on April 7 when Bell was caught shoplifting an item worth $349.
On April 13, an unmarked police patrol identified Bell near Penticton Walmart for having an outstanding warrant. When he was approached by police, Bell dropped his backpack and tried to run away but was caught and arrested.
Police discovered his true identity through identification of tattoos and a comparison of Bell with the Facebook profile of the person whose identity he had assumed.
Bell’s drug possession charge stemmed from a Sept. 15, 2016 incident when Maple Ridge police on patrol observed him in the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet with three other men.
He was seen with drug paraphernalia and arrested, where a search of his person revealed a crack pipe and a baggie containing the fentanyl.
Devji noted Bell’s lack of criminal record but called his personation charges aggravating, as it would be unclear what the future impact of Bell’s actions would have on the victim, whose name is now associated with numerous criminal acts.
She also noted the waste of RCMP resources trying to ascertain Bell’s true identity, in appealing to Judge Meg Shaw for a sentence of between 132 and 171 days followed by 12 months' probation.
Maxwell told court his 26-year-old client was an “absolute idiot” when first jailed, calling him “cheeky, obnoxious and full of meth.”
“He was playing Russian roulette, with one chance in six and five live bullets… after 10 days of withdrawal, he’s a totally sane individual,” Maxwell said, adding his client was mending an estranged relationship with his father and could be employed if he can stay off drugs.
He asked the judge to consider a sentence of no more than 60 days on top of time served, to ensure he was clean and sober when his jail term was up.
Bell told the judge he considered it a blessing to have been arrested. He said he was practising good behaviour, taking high school courses and had a job to do while in prison.
Judge Shaw told Bell he was lucky his eight years of involvement in drugs had not resulted in a criminal record. She also found it troubling Bell broke “a degree of trust” with his best friend by stealing his identification, also noting the negative repercussions the victim may face for years in the future.
Calling rehabilitation an important consideration in her decision, Judge Shaw handed down a sentence of 148 days jail time for Bell’s crimes. With time served, he has 107 more days in jail, followed by 12 months probation.
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