No jail time for trucker selling fentanyl in Vernon's Upper Room Mission parking lot | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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No jail time for trucker selling fentanyl in Vernon's Upper Room Mission parking lot

Vernon Supreme Court
September 02, 2020 - 8:40 AM

A 51-year-old truck driver who became addicted to street level opioids after his doctor cancelled his morphine prescription will not go to prison after being convicted of selling fentanyl in the parking lot of Vernon's Upper Room Mission.

The court heard that Edwin Robert Williams was only "briefly" involved in fentanyl trafficking and did it only to protect and support his wife, Teresa Marie Williams, born 1983, who was a chronic addict and heavily involved in drug trafficking for a lengthy period of time.

The husband and wife team were arrested in March 2018 and were due to stand trial, however, Teresa died June 1, 2019. Her death was not caused by her addiction to drugs. Several months later in October 2019, Edwin, who went by the name Eddy, pleaded guilty to one count of possession for the purpose of trafficking.

At the Vernon courthouse, Sept. 1, defence lawyer Claire Mastop said Edwin loved his wife and just wanted to help her and make sure she was safe while she was selling drugs, which she would have done whether he was there or not.

"Mrs. Williams was really struggling with an intense drug addiction for a long period of time that she often took to trafficking both herself and drugs in order to support her addiction," Mastop told the court. "She was an incredibly vulnerable individual that Mr. Williams loved very much."

The defence lawyer said Teresa had been "beaten up a few times" while dealing drugs and Edwin just wanted to protect her.

Mastop argued under these "exceptional circumstances" Edwin should receive a suspended sentence and probation and not jail.

Crown prosecutor Michelle Reinhart asked the court for 18 to 24 months jail time, although said she would not argue against the exceptional circumstances.

The court heard how in March 2018 a staff member at the Upper Room Mission in Vernon called police after seeing the couple openly selling drugs in the parking lot.

Police arrested Teresa and when searched, she had two glass pipes, $683 in cash, an electronic scale, a pepper spray canister and 1.6 grams of crack cocaine, 4.3 grams of fentanyl, and 1.6 grams of methamphetamine. In a fanny pack, Edwin had 0.1 grams of fentanyl, over $400, and an electronic scale.

The court heard how the couple had been together for 16 years, although they had separated on multiple occasions due to Teresa's addiction issues.

Mastop said Edwin, who did not have a criminal record, had been a truck driver but had a bad crash in 2006 which left him with injuries to his back, shoulders and wrists. Due to his injuries, his doctor had prescribed morphine for the pain, but after two years, withdrew the prescription leaving Edwin addicted to opioids and with no access to them. He then turned to other sources on the street. He also lost his truck driver's licence.

The court heard many of Edwin's friends and family did not know he was addicted to opioids.

In 2010, the couple had their first child and Edwin became clean and entered a methadone program. Teresa, however, continued to use drugs and their child was taken into custody. Edwin relapsed and began using again. The couple's addiction led to homelessness and they spent a year living in a camper with little heating.

Mastop read out several letters of support from drug counsellors Edwin had seen over the years, while he dipped in and out of his addiction.

"It was very difficult for him to watch (Teresa) slip deeper into addiction when he was sober," Mastop told the court.

The court did not hear details of how Teresa became addicted to drugs.

The couple had a second child in December 2018. The birth of his second child was a "big turn around to get straight," Mastop told the court. Edwin stopped using drugs and got on a methadone program. He moved in with his mother in Kamloops and started working for her business. He stopped seeing Teresa.

But Teresa continued to use drugs, and the child was ultimately adopted.

"People would always ask him, why did he stick with her?" Mastop said. "He loved her, he used tough love... they separated... (and) he insisted on her sobriety."

The court heard that even after they were arrested at the Upper Room Mission, Teresa continued with the same lifestyle and was charged several times afterwards, although the court did not hear details.

While much of the sentencing was spent discussing Edwin's struggles with addiction, his remorse, and how he was the lesser party in the trafficking, it was revealed that he had carried a cane that had a five or six-inch blade concealed in it. He'd carried the cane to an appointment with a pre-sentence report writer who would then give the report to the court.

Mastop tried to brush off the cane as a more of a "novelty item" than a weapon, saying Edwin had an "interesting sense of humour."

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin didn't agree.

"A concealed knife inside a cane might to someone be viewed as a novelty, but can also be used as a weapon," she said. "I can't find any humour in that."

However, Justice Devlin did not mention the cane again when she read out her sentencing.

"Here I find Mr. Williams efforts to rehabilitate are truly exceptional... he has taken responsibility for his actions and engaged fully in recovery efforts, he left the woman he loved in order to get sober, he has become a contributing member of the society and is supported by his family members," the Justice said. "Therefore I am suspending the passing of sentence and putting Mr. Williams on 36 months probation."

Edwin will have to adhere to a 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. curfew for 12 months, followed by a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the remainder of the probation. Edwin will also have to complete 60 hours of community service.

"Mr. Williams I'm giving you a chance to continue with the changes that you've made and I wish you the best of luck," Devlin said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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