Another man involved in a $1-million drug bust has been sentenced to jail time, despite his assertion that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and is being punished for his friend's actions.
Dan Palmer, 56, of Lewisporte, was found guilty after a trial over the summer of charges related to the trafficking of cocaine, oxycodone and morphine. Last week, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Vikas Khaladkar sentenced him to two years behind bars, noting the large amount of drugs involved and their devastating impact on those addicted to them.
"The ripple effects of those addictions are felt daily by all of society, whether in the form of drug overdoses, robberies, break and enters, thefts and so one," Khaladkar said when he sentenced Palmer in court in Gander.
Palmer was one of a number of people arrested in 2016 after a drug bust by a joint RCMP/RNC investigative team in St. John's, resulting in the seizure of close to $270,000 in cash, $1-million worth of drugs, cellphones and drug paraphernalia. He was a driver for Daina Cuff, who was sentenced to three years in prison last June on a charge of possessing oxycodone for the purpose of trafficking.
Khaladkar noted Palmer had driven a half-ton truck from Glenwood to the St. John's area with Cuff on three occasions, and had been present with Cuff each time as he purchased drugs from his supplier. Palmer knew about, or was wilfully blind to, the illegal transactions happening in the cab of the truck while he was in it, the judge said.
Palmer and Cuff were arrested on April 28, 2016, when police watched them meet a known drug dealer, Michael Douglas Smith, in a restaurant parking lot. Cuff obtained a brick of cocaine and more than 200 oxycodone pills from Smith before he and Palmer drove to Gander, followed by police. When Mounties stopped them, Palmer was driving the truck, which was Cuff's.
The Crown argued for a jail sentence of 27 months and a 10-year firearm ban for Palmer. The defence argued that, based on Palmer's age and the fact that he had been free on bail for three-and-a-half years and had abided by his court-ordered curfew and other conditions, 24 months of jail was appropriate instead.
In delivering his sentencing decision, Khaladkar mentioned Palmer's pre-sentence report, in which a probation officer stated Palmer had not accepted any responsibility nor expressed remorse for his actions, and said he had merely been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was being punished for Cuff's drug trafficking.
"Drug trafficking is a scourge," the judge said. "Drug addictions cause untold misery — to the addicted, their families and, of course, victims of drug-related crimes. Drugs are responsible for death and debilitation. Nothing good can be said about illicit drugs or the trade in illicit drugs."
Aggravating factors in the case included the highly addictive nature of cocaine and oxycodone, Khaladkar said, and the fact Palmer had been involved in transporting a large amount of it, with a street value of about $90,000, and there had been weapons in the truck.
The judge said he had also considered that Palmer was providing a driving service and not buying and selling drugs himself, making him slightly less culpable than Cuff.
Khaladkar sentenced Palmer to 24 months for each of three charges — possession of morphine for the purpose of trafficking, trafficking cocaine and trafficking oxycodone — to be served concurrently. He also banned Palmer from possessing weapons for 10 years after his release from prison, and ordered him to submit a DNA sample to the RCMP, saying it was in the interest of the administration of justice to do so.