Bar owner gets rare house arrest for trafficking cocaine

Cory Hurley
Published on June 19, 2013
Ronald Kelly enters Supreme court in Corner Brook on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 for sentencing.
Geraldine Brophy

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.