Drug dealer awaits sentencing fate

Campbell River man could go to jail or be placed under house arrest, but sentencing hearing goes on too long

A reformed drug dealer who was prepared to go to jail is still awaiting his fate.

A three-hour-long sentencing hearing Wednesday wasn’t enough time for the judge to hear all the submissions from lawyers in the case against Anthony (Tony) Presidente.

Lengthy submissions by defence lawyer Peter Hertzberg were cut off by Justice Murray Blok at 5 p.m., as the judge had to catch a ferry back to the Lower Mainland, so he could hand down another decision Thursday morning in New Westminster.

That means Presidente, 37, will remain free on bail until the next supreme court sitting in Campbell River, which doesn’t start until May 28. Justice Blok declined to sentence Presidente by video conferencing, and gave no reason for his decision.

Presidente was arrested Jan. 26, 2010, following a RCMP raid at his home in the 500 block of Hilchey Rd.

Officers found a smorgasbord of drugs in the house along with $8,200 in cash and another $474 in American bills.

The drugs included 35 grams of cocaine, 168 grams of hashish, 125 grams of marijuana, 56 grams of magic mushrooms, 35 hits of LSD, 31 capsules of ecstasy, eight grams of powdered ecstasy, 10 morphine capsules and 10 tabs of dilaudid.

Police also seized “score sheets” which kept track of drug tabs, drug-contaminated digital scales, and a cell phone which had text orders for cocaine.

“He was trafficking cocaine,” Hertzberg told the court. “(It was) an opportunistic enterprise sought to supplement his declining income.”

The defence lawyer said Presidente acquired the ecstasy through a trade and used the drug for recreational purposes or gave it to his adult friends.

“There’s no suggestion he sold ecstasy to younger people,” said Hertzberg.

At a earlier court date, Presidente avoided a trial when he pleaded guilty to two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking – the cocaine and ecstasy – and four counts of simple possession. Until then, he had no previous criminal record.

Federal Crown prosecutor Paul Corbett said a fit sentence for Presidente was nine months jail, plus forfeiture of all the cash and drugs. A restricted firearm, a tactical rifle, and ammunition were also seized during the raid, but Corbett noted they were properly licensed and stored.

Corbett said the rifle and bullets can be returned, but not to Presidente who faces a mandatory 10-year firearms prohibition due to the trafficking conviction.

Hertzberg, however, recommended a one-year conditional sentence order which would allow Presidente to maintain his business while remaining under either house arrest or curfew.

Presidente is the owner of Black Rose Tattoo in Courtenay, and employs three people. He currently rents a home in Cumberland and owns another home in Campbell River.

Hertzberg said Presidente earns a modest income from the business and if he was jailed he could lose his business and his home.

“Mr. Presidente is unlikely to re-offend,” said Hertzberg. “He has suffered shame…(and) he’s disrespected his family by his conduct.”

The lawyer added the bust and arrest were a “wake-up call” for Presidente who now realizes the harm drug dealing can do through addiction, violence and property crime.

“He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he didn’t consider the consequences,” said Hertzberg. “He’s turned his life completely around…and has accepted responsibility for his conduct.”

A new date to complete the sentencing has yet to be set. Judge Blok indicated it will likely take another two hours.