Will a convicted West Kelowna cocaine smuggler end up behind bars for eight years or the better part of two decades?
Justice Alison Beames is currently mulling over Clifford Montgomery’s imminent future and is scheduled to release her decision Wednesday.
Where she lands on the spectrum of prison sentences laid out before her will depend on whether she deems Montgomery a ringleader of a major international drug operation, or a long-suffering, small-time cocaine pedlar in charge of a bunch of “stumblebums.”
Montgomery is one of two men already convicted of conspiracy to import as well as two trafficking offences for the failed 2010 scheme where they tried to import nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine into Kelowna from Argentina, through a 2,400 kg industrial fruit grinder.
Crown counsel, who is seeking an 18-year sentence, described the 37 year old as the ringleader of the operation.
He was a “true criminal,” said Crown counsel Chris Greenwood, laying out his argument.
Patching together bits of wiretap evidence used in the trial, Crown said that Montgomery clearly demonstrated that he had a leading role in the scheme.
“He was involved in the planning and knew the amount of cocaine coming in,” he said. “He gave direction to others.”
Included in those directions were ways to deal with the fruit grinder once they realized Mounties had swapped out the cocaine for placebo and dye packages.
“This was the top of the distribution chain. He oversaw transport. Directed others, referenced own trafficking and directed what should be done with the machine,” Greenwood said. “This was the top of the distribution chain.”
And, he said referencing letters of support for Montgomery, bringing in massive quantities of cocaine is not a victimless crime.
“The letters don’t address the consequences of an offence like this,” Greenwood said.
Montgomery may be a good friend, neighbour and son—as the letters spelled out— but he was part of the scheme to import cocaine that could harm the fabric of the community as a whole.
“… it could harm the friends, family and neighbours of others,” he said.
Defence lawyer Neil Cobb had an entirely different take.
Asking for the eight-to 10-year sentence, he said that the Montgomery family had suffered in the years since the 2010 arrest, and some of that suffering should be taken into account for sentencing.
“This person came home and saw his two children being dragged out of their home by the Ministry of Family and Children,” Cobb told the court.
The West Kelowna house where the Montgomery family lived was a regular stop for police who went out of way to make life uncomfortable for its residents, Cobb said.
The school his children attended was informed of the allegations against Montgomery. All combined led the family to move into the countryside to shield the children from the fallout.
Throughout those years Montgomery, who has suffered serious health issues, made an effort to rehabilitate and make bonds in the community.
Cobb also disagreed with the portrayal of Montgomery as the ringleader. “The circumstances again failed to establish total ownership of the drug(s),” he said.
The only thing he was in charge of, said Cobb, was “a bunch of stumblebums on the way to the Lower Mainland.”
The grinding machine was shipped from Argentina to Kelowna in September 2010 when it was intercepted by RCMP. The street value of the drugs was estimated $3.5 million dollars.