A former correctional officer caught smuggling Ritalin pills at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) was sentenced to two years in prison Sept. 28.
Michael Gaber, 48, will be sent to a federal penitentiary in British Columbia, where he relocated after his release on bail before trial.
He was convicted of possessing methylphenidate for the purpose of trafficking back on June 13.
In his judgment, Justice Ron Veale said the former jail guard didn’t have a previous criminal record, a strong mitigating factor.
But as a correctional officer, Veale said, Gaber abused his position of trust when smuggling the pills.
Gaber knew WCC housed people with addictions, the jail’s security protocols, and that bringing contraband into the jail created problems for inmates and jail guards alike, Veale wrote.
“He shared that he knew it was wrong in the beginning but he became desensitized to the internal conflict within himself as the pressures from the outside increased,” Veale wrote, quoting from a pre-sentencing report.
The case stems from December, 2013, when WCC officials got a tip that Gaber would try to smuggle contraband into the jail.
Upon his arrival Gaber was searched, leading to the discovery of 59 pills of Ritalin wrapped in a condom.
WCC officials also searched his car, retrieving a bag of marijuana.
But because the search of Gaber’s car was illegal — officials didn’t have a warrant for the car — Veale excluded that evidence from trial.
Gaber never disputed that he brought pills in the jail. Instead the defence challenged Health Canada’s analysis of one of the pills.
His lawyer argued the poor quality of the analysis raised a reasonable doubt that the pills actually contained methylphenidate, the active substance in Ritalin.
Veale rejected the argument and convicted Gaber.
During trial Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux played a recording of Gaber’s interrogation. In it Gaber admits smuggling pills and tobacco but claimed not knowing what they were.
He said he was feeling pressure from inmates to bring in contraband.
Veale noted that Gaber told the RCMP he had been bringing contraband into the WCC for a year before his arrest. Family or friends of inmates paid him.
The defence argued he smuggled drugs because he was trying to pay his wife’s bills, while Marcoux said the smuggling was purely selfish.
Regardless, Veale ruled, it was motivated by financial gain.
Gaber could be out of prison in as little as eight months if he is granted a conditional release. That would allow him to serve the rest of his sentence in the community.
The case took its toll on Gaber, the judge noted, who had to cash in his RRSPs to pay his lawyer and ended up declaring bankruptcy.
During the sentencing hearing, his lawyer said Gaber had to stay in segregation for his own safety the entire time he was held at WCC after his arrest.
On top of the prison sentence, Gaber will be banned from owning or using a firearm for 10 years, and has to provide a DNA sample to the RCMP.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org