Yukon lawyers argued this week whether a Whitehorse man convicted of illegally manufacturing guns should stay in Whitehorse or go to a federal prison.
There’s not a big difference between the sentences proposed for 43-year-old Dustin Mackie. The defence is asking for the mandatory minimum of three years behind bars. The Crown is pushing for four years.
But with credit for time served, a sentence of three years means Mackie would stay at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as opposed to an Outside penitentiary.
Territorial court judge Michael Cozens heard arguments Monday but said he needs time before making his decision.
Mackie was one of two people living at a residence in Northland Trailer Park in 2013 when police found a cache of guns and evidence that the weapons were being shipped Outside.
Mackie’s co-accused, Steven Rathburn, was sentenced to 16 months in jail in 2013 on lesser charges.
As the Crown tells it, Mackie was working as a blacksmith of sorts, making, designing and selling guns. Rathburn assisted him with things like painting and sandblasting.
Officers were tipped off to the operation by a confidential source and later interviewed the 10-year-old daughter of Rathburn, who sometimes visited the house.
After the pair was arrested on July 20, 2013 Rathburn told police that in the year he and Mackie had been roommates, the two produced 50 to 100 AR-15s and shipped them down south.
Rathburn said the pair produced four to five of the semi-automatic rifles a week, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in the case.
He wouldn’t tell police where the weapons were sold out of fear of repercussions from the buyers, the statement says.
He said they only made enough money to survive.
There is limited information about what happened to the weapons once they were built.
This is not the kind of case where police did a lengthy undercover operation to track where the weapons went, prosecutor Keith Parkkari said.
What police had, he said, was an “arsenal, as it turns out, in a residential trailer park.”
When police searched the home officers found other pistols, rifles and ammunition, parts, tools and schematics.
They also found receipts that appear to be from buying firearm parts, the agreed statement of facts said.
“In addition to the actual firearms, it is very clear there is a warehouse of stock for manufacturing firearms,” Parkkari told the court.
Mackie’s lawyer, Bibhas Vaze, argued that the judge should consider whether Whitehorse’s jail might be a better place for his client than federal prison.
During his time at the jail and after he was released on bail, Mackie has developed connections in the community and has “strong prospects for rehabilitation,” Vaze said.
He argued that cases with longer sentences than the minimum are usually manufacturing operations that are part of larger criminal enterprises.
Rathburn, the co-accused in this case, was given the option of pleading guilty to lesser charges that did not have a mandatory minimum sentence.
Mackie was never given that option, he said.
Giving Mackie a three-year sentence would be about twice what Rathburn got and is reasonable, he said.
Vaze said his client is not violent and does not have a lengthy criminal record.
Instead, Vaze describes him as someone who was able to disassociate himself with what he was doing and where those guns might be going.
That’s something that Mackie repeated himself when he spoke to the judge in court.
Mackie said that when he first arrived in jail he was blaming everyone else and refusing to look at his own actions.
He said that he has since realized that he “clearly put others at risk.”
He said that he had “completely blinded” himself to what he was doing.
Mackie told the court he believes he “can come back from the pit that I dug with my own two hands.”
Cozens said he needs time before he can make a decision.
For now, Mackie remains out on bail. He will be turning himself in at the end of the month to start serving his sentence, however long that ends up being.
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