A Fraser Valley man alleged to have been involved in an anabolic steroid import ring who was accused of unsafe storage of firearms had his five-year firearm ban overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal in Chilliwack on Friday.
The court ruled that provincial court Judge Steven Point erred in connecting Brian McEathron to a shotgun found underneath a bed in a marijuana grow operation in Mission when it was raided by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers four years ago.
It was in March of 2014 that CBSA officials first noticed multiple shipments containing anabolic steroids and other import controlled substances awaiting customs clearance at Vancouver International Airport.
After an investigation lasting several months, CBSA officers executed search warrants at a number of homes. In all, the CBSA said in a press release they seized 33 kilograms of powdered anabolic steroids and prescription drugs, along with 22 litres of liquid steroids and 1,800 capsules, including more than 300 fentanyl pills.
Arrested were Matthew Anderson of Maple Ridge, Kailea Ridsdale of Pitt Meadows and Brian McEathron of Mission. They were charged with smuggling and possession of unlawfully imported goods under the Customs Act, and importation and possession for the purpose of trafficking under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
As part of the investigation, a search warrant was executed at a house in the 30400-block of Keeves Place in Mission. McEathron was charged with the firearms offence in connection with a shotgun found in that house that was also being used to grow cannabis. There was a medical growing licence attached to the address.
In Abbotsford Provincial Court on Sept. 28, 2016, Judge Point ordered a five-year weapons prohibtion against McEathron.
But in the Court of Appeal on July 12, 2019, defence lawyer Chris Terepocki said no evidence was presented in court to prove the gun belong to McEathron. In fact, there was no evidence that the room was his bedroom nor even that he was directly connected to the house.
“Essentially there was a finding that it was Mr. McEathron’s house and [the gun] was stored on his side of the bed,” Terepocki told the court. “It simply wasn’t borne out by the evidence.”
While Judge Point ruled that a reasonable person could have concluded the shotgun was ready to use to protect his grow-op, Terepocki called that an “improper finding.”
“There was no evidence of him residing at the house or in that room.”
Crown counsel Rob McGowan told the court that his office did not disagree with the appellant’s claims and did not oppose the appeal.
McGowan agreed an error was made and the appeal ought to be allowed.
And while McEathron had already served half of the five-year weapons prohibition, the Justice agreed with the submission from Crown and defence and the appeal was allowed.