Seven-month sentence for ‘junior member’ of cocaine network

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Travis King, described by prosecutors as a “junior member” of a Yellowknife cocaine ring, won’t serve penitentiary time after receiving a seven-month sentence Wednesday – two days after he tearfully renounced his criminal past, vowing to become a law-abiding citizen.

“My sentence should support his efforts – not crush them,” said Justice Louise Charbonneau as she handed down her decision in NWT Supreme Court.

Twenty-two-year-old King, wearing a neatly-tucked dress shirt, was backed by his mother and another supporter who sat in the Yellowknife courtroom.

King pleaded guilty to possessing the proceeds of crime – under $5,000 – following his arrest in May 2017. He was one of six people charged following an RCMP probe into drug trafficking in the city.

Mounties seized $415 on King’s person – later admitted to be the proceeds of crime – after a covert surveillance team moved in on the offender and another man at a Fred Henne Territorial Park campsite. Significant amounts of cocaine and crash, along with ammunition and a shotgun, were seized by police after executing search warrants at the campsite, a downtown apartment unit and a vehicle.

King was on a recognizance at the time of his arrest after being charged in May 2016 with possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

King was found to be carrying more than 100 grams of cocaine following a traffic stop in Hay River.

He was sentenced to 30 months in custody for that offence in June. With credit for time spent in remand custody, he was left with 23 months left to serve. Seven months after his conviction, King has 16 months left to serve.

Because King is still serving his sentence, the term imposed on the proceeds of crime conviction would be added to the 16 months he has left serve.

Sentences of more than two years trigger prison terms. Offenders who have been sentenced to terms less than two years serve their sentences at jails in the territory.

On Monday, King’s lawyer Peter Harte asked Charbonneau to impose a sentence of six months for the proceeds of crime conviction – a term that would amount to 22 months, sparing King from prison.

The Crown called for nine to 12 months in custody, a term that would have triggered prison time for King.

At only 22, Harte said King being sent to prison would be “enormously problematic.”

Charbonneau agreed on Wednesday, saying prison would “not be helpful,” for King, given his young age and the fact that he is making efforts to turn his life around.

Charbonneau said King’s statements, made on Monday, were “sincere and determined.”

She cited the need to denounce and deter criminal organizations that prey on the vulnerabilities of drug users, but also noted the importance of rehabilitation for King, who, she said, had an “extremely difficult” upbringing.

A pre-sentence report detailing King’s childhood and circumstances “was a truly heartbreaking read,” said Charbonneau.

Reminding him that the seven-month sentence is “still quite lenient,” Charbonneau said she hopes to see King in the future – just not in a courtroom.

Because, she said, “we’d all be better off as a community if Mr. King succeeds.”

King hugged his mother before being led into police custody away from the Yellowknife courtroom.

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As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.

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