A Princeton man has been sentenced to just over 18 months after time served for being in possession of a loaded handgun in a Denny’s parking lot in Penticton.
Cody J. E. Wilson was handed a total of 30 months incarceration for one count of possessing a loaded firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and improper storage of a firearm.
Wilson was convicted by an 11-member jury in February, and Crown pushed for a prison term of 42 months, while the defence sought a provincial jail term of less than two years. Lawyer Michael Patterson had called for that sentence to be served in the community under house arrest.
Wilson had been arrested in the Denny’s parking lot in Penticton on Oct. 7, 2016 after his girlfriend called the police on him saying they had been in a dispute and she believed he had a firearm.
During his arrest, video displayed in court showed an item was taken from Wilson’s pocket, later identified as the firearm. Wilson, however, denied that a weapon was found on him.
“The implicit position of Mr. Wilson was that police had lied about finding the gun in his pocket and somehow, either at or around the time of the arrest, or at some point thereafter, manufactured the evidence,” Justice David Crossin said while delivering his sentence.
“This, in fact, was essentially the theory of the defence as it was put to the jury by council. The jury obviously rejected this position. Indeed, having listened to the whole of the evidence, it is my view there was simply no air of reality to the position of Mr. Wilson in this regard.”
A firearm was also found in Wilson’s vehicles subsequent to a police search. Having a firearm in a moving vehicle, “strategically placed for ready access and entirely outside of the regulatory framework” was all the more aggravating, Crossin said.
“When an offender possesses a firearm, that’s particularly a handgun, for an illicit purpose, that purpose could only be to threaten or inflict serious bodily harm or death if and when considered necessary,” Crossin said in sentencing.
“As Crown counsel aptly put it, ‘most unlawful possession of loaded firearms represents nothing short of tragedy in gestation.’”
The risk, Crossin said, was amplified by Wilson’s consumption of alcohol at the time. Wilson suggested he had been clean since his arrest, but no evidence was presented of Wilson seeking counselling or therapy to help deal with his substance abuse.
“Take it from me, for what it’s worth, you can’t turn your life around by yourself. When I heard that you were just out there on your own thinking ‘I can beat all these demons I have all by myself.’ You can’t. You need help. You must reach out,” Crossin said, addressing Wilson directly after the hearing.
“I hope you can take advantage of some of the programs that will be available to you. I know from personal experience there are a number of good programs in the institution. … Then I urge you to take advantage of the programs in the province, particularly reconnecting you to your Indigenous heritage.”
Wilson claims Indigenous heritage, a factor judges must consider when sentencing, given the effects of colonialism and issues like residential schools on the Indigenous population. While Crossin noted none of Wilson’s grandparents had gone to residential schools, he did note that the rippling effects of colonialism on all Indigenous people.
After the hearing, Wilson’s mother told media that while his grandmother had avoided residential schools, the conditions she was put through — including winding up on the streets of Winnipeg at 12 years old without an education — also had a significant impact on the family.
Crossin told Wilson at the end of the hearing that it was “an unhappy day for all concerned,” and that “no one in this room takes pleasure” in seeing a young man go to jail.
“I believe you have a good heart. I do not believe you are a bad person.”