Vernon fentanyl dealer gets house arrest; Judge says public will 'struggle' with sentence | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon fentanyl dealer gets house arrest; Judge says public will 'struggle' with sentence

November 26, 2020 - 7:00 AM

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton told 22-year-old fentanyl dealer Matthew Himpfen that many people in the community would struggle with the fact he wasn’t going to prison.

Then he sentenced Himpfen to house arrest.

Appearing by phone at the Vernon courthouse, Nov. 25, Himpfen pleaded guilty to one charge of possession of fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking for his involvement in a Vernon dial-a-dope scheme when he was 19 years old.

The court heard how since his arrest in February 2018 Himpfen had turned his life around, got married and had a child, found full-time work and been sober for 10 months.

"One of the disadvantages in having you by phone is that I don't have the ability to see you or look you in the eye to say some of the things that often need to be said," the justice said. “There are thousands of family members unlike your mother and your coworkers and your wife and your stepfather who can speak about (the) progress you've made and the tangible steps you've taken, who instead have to talk about how their loved one is gone, is dead, because of fentanyl. Do you appreciate all of that sir?" Justice Betton asked.

Himpfen replied, "yes sir.”

The sentencing comes on the same day the B.C. Coroners Service reported that an average of five people die from illicit drug overdoses every day, many of those fentanyl. In October, there were 162 overdose deaths in B.C. — double the amount from October 2018.

The court heard how Himpfen had grown up in Abbotsford and played rugby for the Team Canada under 17 squad. His mother had been a single parent and he had had sporadic contact with his father who had been in and out of prison and had long-term substance abuse issues.

While Himpfen had hoped to go to the University of Victoria to continue to play rugby, he'd been expelled from school for an assault when he was one credit away from graduating.

This incident had "derailed him," Himpfen's lawyer William Jessop told the court.

"Scattered, stressed, (he) didn't care about life and was depressed," Jessop said. "He thought his father's reputation preceded him."

Himpfen developed his own substance abuse issues and moved to the Okanagan area in March 2017. On Jan. 1, 2018, he attempted suicide.

Weeks later, in February 2018 during a Vernon RCMP drug investigation, a vehicle Himpfen was driving was pulled over. Police had been monitoring the vehicle and witnessed another person, known to police, visit a drug house early that day. The RCMP watched Himpfen make four short stops, indicative of dial-a-dope dealing, before pulling him over.

Police found 13 small baggies each containing roughly 0.1 gram of fentanyl, $265 in cash, and two cell phones in the vehicle. In total 1.58 grams of fentanyl were seized. Police then received several calls on the confiscated cell phones requesting drugs.

Himpfen was arrested and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of a controlled substance.

Crown prosecutor Michelle Reinhart told the court while the amount of fentanyl was relatively small, a sentence of two years in jail could be justified.

However, Reinhart said because of "exceptional circumstances" she agreed to enter into a joint submission with the defence asking for 24 months of house arrest.

Jessop told the court since the arrest Himpfen now lived in a basement suite at his mother's house in Mission and had taken active steps to combat his addiction.

A reference letter from a former employer was submitted and the court heard how he took full responsibility for his actions.

"He was depressed and anxious... (and) he has truly turned his life around," the defence lawyer said.

Justice Betton acknowledged that he is bound by law to follow the joint submission of the Crown and defence and could only reject the sentence if he felt it brought the justice system into disrepute.

He did, however, take the time to speak about Himpfen's role in the fentanyl crisis.

"(People) don't have to go very far to see the effects of drug use, not far from this courthouse one can walk down the streets on any day, almost at any time and see what those consequences are," Betton said. "You know that full well, you were part of that."

He told Himpfen that a sentence of two years in prison could have been a reality and he hopes the 22-year-old “sits and reflects” when at home with wife and child, that he’s not sitting in a jail cell.

The Justice said because Himpfen had only been sober for 10 months he was "not out of the woods yet".

Himpfen was sentenced to 24 months of house arrest, with a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for the first 12 months, then 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the remaining time, plus multiple other conditions.

He will also have to complete 20 hours of community service, a much shorter amount of hours than ordinarily given due to the pandemic.


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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