Bar owner gets rare house arrest for trafficking cocaine

Cory Hurley
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Ronald Kelly enters Supreme court in Corner Brook on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 for sentencing.

CORNER BROOK — A judge called his decision to not send Ronald Rodney Kelly to jail “exceptional.”

Justice William Goodridge said the main reason he imposed house arrest on the 55-year-old Howley man who admitted to trafficking cocaine out of his bar in 2010, was that the mitigating circumstances heavily outweighed the aggravating factor.

The judge referred to a pre-sentence report done on Kelly that he said was almost entirely a positive reflection on him. He is a contributing member of society as a long-time businessman, has no previous criminal record, and pleaded guilty to the offence.

The seriousness of the charge of trafficking cocaine was determined to be the only aggravating factor, said Goodridge, in declaring his decision in Supreme Court of Canada in Corner Brook. He said his decision in no way diminishes that seriousness due to the devastating impacts on people and society, and the spin-off crimes, associated with cocaine use.

Kelly sold an undercover officer an “eight ball” of cocaine, which is equivalent to about 3.5 grams, on consecutive nights out of Trappers Lounge in September 2010. The bar owner believed the officer to be a regular patron, and upon request got him the cocaine within 20 minutes on the first night. The night after — following a comment to the effect that he didn’t know where he left his scales — got the cocaine in 11 minutes.

Despite Kelly’s insinuation that this was the first and only time he trafficked cocaine, Crown attorney David Mills — who had strongly urged for a minimum of six months in jail — disputed that likelihood. He said it would have at least taken an inexperienced person more time to get cocaine upon request. A subsequent search of the bar unturned five of the $20 bills used by the officer to pay the $600 for the drugs in the “gaming room.”

As defence attorney Gerard Martin argued, Goodridge said he considered the evidence presented and agreed to by both parties, and could not speculate about certain aspects of the case — including whether there was anything more to the individual charges as part of a larger criminal operation.

While the judge said the house arrest was an exceptional case, it is not unprecedented.

In fact, there are court of appeal decisions which the judge had to consider in determining sentences with far more serious factors — including people with criminal records, participants in larger criminal operations, larger volumes of cocaine, and even drug addictions (none of which Kelly was or had) — whereby house arrest was imposed, said Goodridge.

Kelly received two years less a day of house arrest. He must stay at his home in Howley at all times, unless it applies to a number of exceptions. In addition to the standard times for personal, court and medical reasons, he is permitted out for work purposes daily between 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

However, he is not allowed inside Trapper’s Lounge for one year. It is up to the probation officer if he can return after that.

Kelly, who also operates an RV park and take-out in the community, was also given a year of probation. He is also subject to a 10-year firearms prohibition, making him unable to hunt for the next decade.

Goodridge said the strict conditions of his house arrest should still serve as a deterrent to him and the public. The judge told Kelly he hopes he gets the “crystal clear message” that this is the lowest sentence he could have gotten and he would serve a minimum of a year in jail if he was ever convicted again.

Kelly must also abide by the conditional sentence order or face the possibility of serving his sentence in jail.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Howley

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Recent comments

  • Are you serious?
    June 24, 2013 - 07:33

    Mr. Hickey, are you really serious? Underhanded narc? This officier should be commended for the work to take another drug dealer off the streets. Its unfortunate that the legal system failed and did not put him in away. I am also sure that he does not care who he sold his drugs too. Adults or kids? I am sure that you wouldnt be as easy to give him a pardon if the drugs that he sold was sold to one of your family members and they died from an overdose. There should be zero tolerance for anyone selling drugs! If he was such a "great business man" why would he even have to resort to selling drugs! He should of gotten at least a year in jail! As for you calling it entrapment?? It is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard in my life!! A message to the police! Keep up the great work! The more of these operations that are done the more of the scum you get off the streets!! That is if they arent released because it is their "first offence"

  • john hickey
    June 19, 2013 - 13:34

    Before you people all make judgements about Mr. Kelly, remember that he was never shown to actually be a seller of cocaine and most certainly not to minors, as anyone who enters his establishment has to show ID to prove they're 19 or over.. The fact that he facilitated the sale of some cocaine, after he was set up by an underhanded narc, is only proof that he is gullible enough to be fooled by what is obvious entrapment.. It never ceases to amaze me how these under cover narcs manage to do what they do and not wind up paying the ultimate price at some point.. Before anyone gets the idea that I condone cocaine, it's sale or use, I do not. That said, I most certainly don't condone entrapment of citizens by police either.... Tough call...

    • Foghorn Leghorn
      June 20, 2013 - 09:14

      Exactly how is it that you propose that police arrest someone for selling narcotics. Wait for the person to have a guilty conscience and confess to a police officer. He provided the cocaine and received money in return, if that is not selling then I don't know what you would call it?

  • ryan
    June 19, 2013 - 12:44

    again the justice system has failed society......its a sham

  • Howleyite
    June 19, 2013 - 12:37

    Did they even ask people in the community? Sure he runs the businesses but if they asked someone other than his family what he was like i'm sure there would be many stories that would crucify him.

  • Citizen
    June 19, 2013 - 11:07

    Ugh. Gross.

  • jimbob
    June 19, 2013 - 07:45

    serious time for serious crime....not.

  • Keith
    June 19, 2013 - 06:43

    I guess that is what our justice system is all about; You get someone to say you are a good member of Society and this judge will give you a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD. Judge Goodridge, you sir are an embarressment to the profession. I wonder how many kids with a couple of joints in their pocket you have sent to jail. You sir are a loser and should resign.