(This article originally appeared in the Aug. 11, 2016 edition of the Chilliwack Times.)
Two Chilliwack men with long criminal records were sentenced last week in connection with a complicated armed home invasion case the Crown called “peculiar ” and defence called a “Gordian knot.”
After a prolonged period since first charged in the Oct. 4, 2014 incident, Jonathon David Olson and co-accused Troy Tinoy James pleaded guilty, James on May 31, 2016 to break and enter with intent to commit robbery, and Olson a few days later to the same charge in addition to using a firearm to commit an indictable offence.
On Thursday, Olson was handed a sentence of 34 months for the break and enter and one year consecutive for the weapons charge by Judge Edna Ritchie.
He’s been in custody since the incident so was credited at 1.5-to-one for the 22 months he has already served, which amounts to 33 months credit on the total sentence of 46 months.
Then on Friday, Judge Donald Gardner gave James a 30 month sentence. He was only given credit for nine months in pre-trial because he’s been serving time for another incident, which means, with 1.5-to-one, he’ll serve16.5 more months.
The crux of the crime before the court saw the two prolific offenders arrive at the Ellis residence east of downtown Chilliwack on Oct. 4, 2014 with a shotgun looking for someone named “Gus ” and $2,000.
But they were at the wrong Ellis residence.
Still, the two terrorized the 25-yearold man who was home alone in his parents’house watching TV at the time, Olson pointing the gun at him for about 30 minutes asking about “Gus ” and the money until finally stealing numerous items and letting the young man flee.
The “Gus ” in question referred to Constantinos Gus Anthony who owns a house one block away, and who currently faces drugs and weapons charges along with three other individuals in connection with a dial-a-dope operation.
Anthony attended the Ellis residence the day after the home invasion to talk to the victim, the court heard, explaining there was video evidence of a subsequent incident.
Further complicating the story is that a few blocks away lives another Ellis, Stuart Ellis, who was also connected to the drug trade.
After the botched home invasion at the wrong address, Olson and James headed to Stuart Ellis’residence where Olson stole a pickup truck from a man and woman in the driveway.
Olson took off in the truck while James left in the pair’s original vehicle. A short while later, police attempted to pull over Olson in the pickup truck, he fled but eventually lost control, crashed near Annis Road and was arrested at gunpoint.
(To add further complication to the story, and something not brought up by the Crown in court, Stuart Ellis was the victim of a homicide three months later on Jan. 12, 2015. He was found dead in a crashed SUV on Hazel Street. No arrests have been made in connection with his death.)
On Aug. 4, the court heard Stuart Ellis’wife, who owned the truck, showed police video surveillance that showed Olson with the shotgun stealing the truck. But later she and the two other witnesses from the driveway refused to show up to court.
“It appears that these parties were all in some form or another acquainted ,” Crown counsel Pat Beirne said at Olson’s sentencing hearing.
Beirne asked the judge for a four-year sentence for Olson: three years for the break and enter and one year for the weapons charge, which has to run consecutively.
Olson’s defence counsel David Donnelly spent much of his argument at the sentencing hearing complaining about the “deplorable ” conditions at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre where his client has spent nearly two years.
“The housing conditions at Surrey Pre-Trial are particularly harsh ,” Donnelly said, pointing to small quarters, “toxic ” mould on the walls and on surfaces, lack of access to a gym or a yard, and improper medical treatment for his client’s PTSD and anxiety issues.
Donnelly argued that while new laws meant the judge could not give two-to-one credit for time served as was done in the past, there was case law to suggest she could reduce the sentence based on the “deplorable conditions ” at the detention centre.
Donnelly asked for a sentence of time served.
Beirne responded to Donnelly’s argument saying that the reason for 1.5-to-one credit is precisely because the courts recognize conditions in pre-trial are not ideal.
He pointed out that if Olson had pleaded guilty early in the proceedings, rather than waiting a year and a half, he wouldn’t have been in pre-trial. He also read from prison logs that showed numerous occasions when Olson could have gone to the yard or the gym but chose not to, adding that he had frequent access to medical treatment.
Beirne added that while Donnelly mentioned Olson had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, the career criminal has now caused an anxiety disorder in his innocent victim.
Judge Edna Ritchie agreed, pointing out how “the life of a young man home alone changed dramatically.”
Ritchie added that while the court heard Olson may have had a challenging upbringing, “it does not establish a right to commit crimes.”
Olson has 30 criminal convictions on his record dating back to the year 2000, many for violent offences but mostly property crime and driving. He and fellow drug dealer Trevor Egilson were recently acquitted of a violent assault of a cocaine-addicted man they allegedly pepper-sprayed in the genitals after the victim proved too unreliable a witness.
Egilson was in the courtroom to support Olson, the two exchanged glances and verbal messages of support at breaks in the proceedings.
When asked if he had anything to say to the court, Olson said: “Just that I’m sorry.”
The judge agreed with Crown for the most part and sentenced Olson to 34 months for the break and enter and 12 months for the weapons offence for a global sentence of 46 months.
Because of his 22 months in pretrial custody, at 1.5-times credit, he has 13 more months to serve.
As for James, his lawyer Gurpreet Gill asked the court for two years less a day for her client pointing to the many certificates he has received while in custody and his desire to turn his life around.
“He has done everything he possibly can to extricate himself from this criminal culture ,” Gill told Judge Donald Gardner.
Gill also read a letter of apology written by James to the court.
Crown asked the court for the same sentence as for Olson on the main charge, three years.
Gardner agreed mostly with Crown pointing to the legal principle that anyone who abets an offence is a party to the offence. He sentenced him to 30 months.