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Drug dealer called 'parasite' given six-month jail sentence

By Keith Lacey Calling people who traffic hard drugs to addicts "parasites", Justice Ian Gordon sentenced a veteran Inco miner to jail for six months last Thursday.
By Keith Lacey

Calling people who traffic hard drugs to addicts "parasites", Justice Ian Gordon sentenced a veteran Inco miner to jail for six months last Thursday.

The fact Christopher Palmer, 54, had such a wide variety of hard drugs and was running a sophisticated distribution system makes him ineligible to be considered for a conditional sentence to be served in the community, said Gordon.

Court heard Palmer, who has more than 25 years of service with Inco, has twice declared bankruptcy and got into the drug-dealing business not to support any drug habit, but to make extra money.

On Dec. 1, 1999, police received information from a street informant that hard drugs could be purchased from a man by calling a cell phone and punching in a numeric code.

The night in question, police noticed Palmer driving by a schoolyard parking lot twice before pulling onto the property.

When they stopped the car, Palmer was alone inside and police found 17 individual bags of cocaine, 60 morphine pills and 40 other high-powered pills which can only be legally prescribed by a doctor or pharmacist, including six pills known on the street as 'poor man's heroin'.

The total street value of the drugs seized was estimated at between $2,200 and $3,500.

Defence counsel Glenn Sandberg unsuccessfully launched an application last year saying police didn't have reasonable and probable grounds to stop, detain and arrest Palmer the night in question.

After losing that application, Palmer decided to plead guilty and did so Nov. 29 last year. A pre-sentence report was prepared for the sentencing hearing.

Gordon, who was visibly upset in handing down sentence, said Palmer's drug operation "makes me sick" as it involved driving around under the cover of darkness ready and willing to sell hard drugs to addicts whose addiction has likely ruined their lives.

While Palmer wasn't charged with selling any of the drugs the night in question, he was willing to sell for profit "a veritable menu, a smorgasborg of drugs for people to simply call to meet to purchase the smorgasborg," said Gordon.

Palmer's methods were sophisticated and "well-designed to avoid detection or trace," said the experienced judge.

While he's convinced Palmer isn't a danger to the community and not likely to reoffend, the key sentencing principle in this case is one of general deterrence to others who might consider getting involved in dealing hard drugs, said Gordon.

"People driving around our city and distributing drugs through the night that may ruin other lives must be deterred," he said. "I have little sympathy if you lose your job. What were you thinking of driving through the night with all these drugs in your pocket, in your car."

Defence counsel Glenn Sandberg had asked Gordon to impose a conditional sentence to be served in the community of 18 months to two years, with strict conditions including house arrest when Palmer wasn't working.

Palmer pays support for a young son and helps pay an adult son's university costs, said Sandberg.

Palmer has no previous drug-related record, has contributed to society in a positive way until this incident and has learned a valuable lesson not to be repeated ever again, he said.

Federal Crown prosecutor Ted Conroy asked for a jail sentence of between 12 and 18 months saying hard drugs have become a very serious problem in this community and trafficking in cocaine almost always calls for real jail time and not a conditional sentence.

Palmer had a wide variety of drugs for sale, will still receive a good pension if he were to lose his job, and society must recognize those who deal hard drugs will have to pay a serious penalty, said Conroy.