In Penticton’s courthouse, Judge Jeremy Guild heard disparate sentencing ranges from defence and Crown — between 21 and 36 months — for a minor theft spree between Osoyoos and West Kelowna and a reckless, impaired driving incident involving theft of motor vehicles in Vernon. (Dustin Godfrey/Western News)

Man facing 15 to 36 months for crimes throughout Okanagan

It ended in July 2017 with Justen Sheena crashing two stolen vehicles while impaired in Vernon

An Okanagan man will face up to three years — or as low as 15 months — incarceration for six months of crimes throughout the Valley and ended after he crashed twice while driving in Vernon.

Justen Morgan Sheena pleaded guilty Monday morning to six files of theft under $5,000 for what were largely the same crimes in varying places and at different times.

Between January and April 2017, Sheena stole from two Osoyoos liquor stores and one Oliver liquor store, ranging from a couple of cases of beer to $100 worth of liquor. Following that, Sheena pleaded guilty to thefts from grocery stores in Kelowna and West Kelowna, ranging in value from $60 to $200.

Then on July 11, Vernon RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision in Vernon, where the caller said a male driver had left the scene, believed to be drunk.

Upon arrival, police found a Nissan Sentry, later determined to be stolen, in the ditch. Food and clothing were inside, as well as blood on the emergency brake and a bottle of Jack Daniels honey whiskey in the vehicle.

Pedestrians nearby pointed officers up a hill, where the driver, later identified as Sheena, was believed to have stolen a Jeep.

Instead, a large truck was later seen backing down the hill, before turning around in a parking lot and driving down the hill forward. After a police officer attempted to deploy a spike belt twice with no success, the vehicle continued, swaying significantly as it turned around corners.

The officer alerted others to the situation, but lost sight of the truck. However, another officer nearby heard the call and after moving toward the direction of the vehicle’s presumed location, found a woman matching a description of the passenger walking.

Not far from there, the truck was found to be rolled over onto its side, blocking traffic. Sheena, was found to be inside the vehicle, struggling to get out the passenger side, which was, in its toppled position, the roof of the vehicle.

After he eventually made it out of the vehicle and sat on the top, he was told he was under arrest, but resisted police, saying he had not been driving. Crown lawyer Ann Lerchs said, however, that he matched the description of the man seen driving previously, including lost or broken teeth and a face tattoo.

From the Vernon incident, Sheena pleaded guilty to six charges, including two counts of possession of stolen property over $5,000, impaired driving, driving while prohibited and obstructing/resisting police.

Crown is seekings a total of up to 36 months incarceration, which would be subtracted by 410 days for enhanced credit for the 273 days Sheena has already been in jail.

Lerchs pointed to the damage caused by the impaired driving and the level of recklessness, as well as an extensive history of run-ins with the law on similar matters as aggravating factors. However, she conceded that the guilty pleas, considered early by the court, were mitigating factors.

Meanwhile, defence lawyer Norm Yates suggested a minimum of 15 months in total. Much of the difference of opinion was whether or not each of the six charges from the Vernon incident should be served consecutive or concurrent to one another.

He pointed to a Gladue report, which details an Indigenous offender’s heritage and struggles as a marginalized member of the community, prepared for Sheena. That report noted innumerable difficulties Sheena faced growing up, and into his adult life, having been orphaned at the age of five.

Since going to Okanagan Correctional, Sheena entered the suboxone program, then switched to the methadone program, which he said has been working well for him.

“I never really had a childhood,” Sheena said in his video appearance in court Monday, where he brought a small stack of certificates for programs he had completed during his time in jail.

“When I was a teenager I was never there. I never had a father or a parent. I’m starting to feel — I know my kids are missing their dad. I’ve been talking with them and they’re previous mama, and they’re all waiting for me to get released just to be out there with them.

“Yes, I’m ready to take some recovery, too. … I’m ready to shoot forward and go do that. I have work set up. Things are looking good for me.”

The matter has been put back to April 16 for Guild to deliver his sentence.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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