Vernon judge tells fentanyl dealer 'don't do the crime if you can't do the time' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon judge tells fentanyl dealer 'don't do the crime if you can't do the time'

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November 21, 2019 - 2:00 PM

A 23-year-old fentanyl dealer will spend 18-months behind bars after Judge Jeremy Guild told him "don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

Judge Guild explained the line was from the 1970s TV show Baretta while sentencing Sung Hwan Choi at the Vernon courthouse yesterday, Nov. 20.

Choi's lawyer Julian van der Walle had argued his client should receive one-year under house arrest, followed by two years probation citing how Choi had no previous criminal record, had turned his life around, was working full time, planned to go to trade school, and had spent 60 hours volunteering at a soup kitchen over the last two years.

Guild told the court "that is what law-abiding citizens do," noting Choi's volunteering amounted to one hour every two weeks.

The court heard how Choi had been arrested in July 2017, as part of an RCMP operation. Police were investigating what they believed to be a group of people bringing drugs from the Lower Mainland to sell in Vernon as part of a dial-a-dope scheme.

Originally from Surrey, Choi who was 21-years-old at the time had only been in Vernon for two weeks before his arrest. He was picked up by police while in a vehicle with 31-year-old Dawn Bobbie Larson who he only met that day and was also convicted for drug dealing. Larson was scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20 but did not turn up at court. The Vernon RCMP released a media statement Nov. 8 asking for help locating Larson.

Following the arrest, both Choi and Larson were charged with three counts of possessing cocaine, methamphetamine and a mixture of heroin and fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking.

However, during an earlier court appearance, in April 2019, Guild ruled Choi's Charter rights had been violated.

According to court documents, during Choi's arrest police read him his rights and he had asked for a lawyer. An officer then patted him down and asked Choi what a bulge in his pocket was? Guild ruled the question should not have been asked and that police expected an "inculpatory response."

Guild also ruled that Choi's underwear was exposed for 16 seconds while being searched at the Vernon police station and this along with other irregularities amounted to a "strip search" and violated Choi's Charter rights.

Guild told the court the Charter violations meant the "majority" of the drugs found on Choi were excluded from the trial.

On May 23, 2019, the judge found Larson guilty of all three counts of trafficking, while the Charter violations meant Choi was convicted on one count of possession for the propose of trafficking 0.29 grams of a heroin-fentanyl mixture. The court did not hear the total amount of drugs discovered on Choi.

Looking considerably younger than his age, with his face appearing to be emotionless, Choi stood in the Vernon courthouse as Judge Guild told him he had come to Vernon to spread "misery and addiction far from his home."

"He travelled here to spread the plague of illicit hard drugs... motivated entirely by greed," the judge said.

Guild said while Choi had expressed remorse and that he didn't want to harm people and did not know the drugs he was selling contained fentanyl, those statements showed a "considerable lack of awareness."

If Choi had taken the time to search the words "drugs" and "harm" on the internet he would have learned the harm fentanyl causes, the judge said.

Guild said Choi had been attracted to the criminal lifestyle by greed and had no addiction or mental health issues. The judge said Choi came from a stable family and having finished school went from job to job, "likely due to his bad attitude."

Guild sentenced Choi to 18 months jail time followed by 12 months probation and ordered he give a DNA sample. Choi was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

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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