Six-year sentence for failed home invasion of rival drug dealer

Court: Accused committed increasingly more serious offences

The crimes keep getting worse and the jail sentences longer for Justin Upton who’s now serving a six-year prison term for a botched home invasion of a rival drug dealer.

“He has steadily increased the seriousness of his offences over a lengthy period and has now committed very serious offences, yet still shows no insights that are likely to assist him to change,” said Justice Malcolm Macaulay during an April 17 sentencing hearing in B.C Supreme Court in Victoria.

“Apart from a lengthy jail term, I see no means to protect the public.”

Upton, 27, was raised in Campbell River in a home where booze and drugs were a way of life. His mother was murdered by her boyfriend when he was seven years old and for a time afterwards he was raised by his father.

By age 13, Upton had lived in 17 different foster homes, but later lived with his grandfather until he was 22.

Between April 2005 and January 2011, Upton compiled 27 convictions, consisting of thefts, fraud, property offences, drug offences, extortion, multiple breaches of court orders, wilful obstruction, assault with intent to resist arrest and, in January 2011, aggravated assault.

For the last conviction he received a weapons prohibition on top of a jail sentence and probation. Nevertheless, on April 24, 2012, Upton was one of three men arrested by a special police tactical unit who had them under surveillance at semi-rural property in Langford.

That night, Upton was joined by Jacob Cappello and Cody Smith. According to Justice Macaulay, the trio was likely ordered by their drug-dealing boss to raid the residence of a rival dealer who was growing marijuana

The three men bought a sledge hammer and duct tape to use and they also had zap-straps and two loaded handguns in a duffle bag.

Smith drove and when they reached their destination Upton and Cappello both donned masks and got out of the vehicle. Upton was wearing a bulletproof vest while Cappello carried the sledge hammer.

Their plan, wrote the judge, was to break in and rip off the rival dealer with Upton prepared to keep half the loot. However, as the two approached the residence, they noticed a vehicle out front and decided to call off the invasion.

But as they were driving away, they had no idea they were already under police surveillance and were quickly arrested.

Upton did get bail, but violated conditions which led to arrest warrants. He was found  by Mounties last October in Campbell River after he was stopped for having a faulty tail light on his vehicle.

Upton gave the officer a false name, but police quickly figured out his true identity. He received a 41-day jail sentence for the breaches and obstruction, and then in January, he faced trial for the attempted home invasion. At trial, the court heard that Upton blamed Cappello for the guns and sledge hammer, but the judge didn’t buy the story.

“Upton’s present explanation…doesn’t make sense,” said Justice Macaulay. “Why would he be the one to wear a bulletproof vest, don a face mask, and leave the vehicle with Cappello if he was not to be actively involved in carrying out the proposed home invasion?”

The judge found Upton guilty on six of 11 charges, five related to firearms and one for wearing a mask during an indictable offence. He received a six-year prison sentence, but was given credit for already serving one year and nine days.

Smith was convicted of two firearms-related offences and one count of obstruction. He is awaiting sentencing.

Cappello pleaded guilty to some offences, but not the most serious gun charges. He received a conditional sentence and testified for the Crown at trial.

In addition to the federal sentence, Upton is prohibited from possessing any firearms or ammunition for life.