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Prolific offender sentencing interrupted

RCMP officers seized the following items from Andrew Robert Hardenstine and the backpack that he was seen carrying: an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle, a loaded 9mm handgun with laser sight and silencer capabilities and a plastic bottle containing approximately 100 ml of GHB.  - RCMP supplied photo
RCMP officers seized the following items from Andrew Robert Hardenstine and the backpack that he was seen carrying: an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle, a loaded 9mm handgun with laser sight and silencer capabilities and a plastic bottle containing approximately 100 ml of GHB.
— image credit: RCMP supplied photo

A prolific offender arrested with a loaded handgun, assault rifle and drugs in his possession will have to wait another day for sentencing after what the judge called a "highly unusual set of circumstances."

Andrew Robert Hardenstine was arrested on Sept. 11 and on Monday sentencing began on the numerous charges he plead guilty to, with judicial stay of proceedings on others. Halfway through his sentencing on Tuesday at the Penticton courthouse, Hardenstine disputed some of the facts Judge Gregory Korturbash was reading.

"There is lots to dispute your honour," said Hardenstine.

This comment and others tipped Hardenstine's lawyer Bob Maxwell to frustration and he asked to be taken off the record as his council. Hardenstine was adamant that the loaded 9 millimetre handgun he had in his possession did not have a filed off serial number as the police report read, and he stated there was no serial number at all on it. Because of the dispute of the facts, the judge had to stop the sentencing.

Crown counsel John Swanson said on Monday in court that RCMP received two tips from sources that Hardenstine, who was well-known to Mounties in the area, was in possession of guns and was selling drugs in the South Okanagan. According to Swanson, Hardenstine had 57 previous criminal convictions and RCMP believed he had a potential to be very violent.

The Penticton RCMP Drug Task Force unit acted on the tips and began surveillance of what they were told was Hardenstine's residence. At 4:40 p.m. they observed Hardenstine pull up on an orange and white motorcycle, carrying a backpack with a cylindrical item sticking out of it about 30 to 45 centimetres in length and wrapped in cloth material. Just over half an hour later Cpl. Brad Myhre saw Hardenstine emerge from the residence with the same backpack and believed he was carrying a firearm. As Hardenstine drove away the RCMP drove directly towards him to get in his path. Crown said Hardenstine attempted to drive around the passenger side of the RCMP vehicle and collided with it knocking him off his bike and his helmet off. RCMP said Hardenstine shrugged off the backpack, managed to get away from Myhre and bolted down the street. Another officer in a vehicle attempted to cut off Hardenstine but he switched directions and the officer began a foot pursuit eventually catching up to the suspect. Crown counsel said Hardenstine turned around clenching his fist preparing for a fight and the officer punched him and he was subdued after struggling with other officers.

Upon search of his backpack RCMP found a SKS semi-automatic assault rifle with a folding stock, a loaded 9 millimetre handgun with a laser sight and silencer capabilities and in a duffle bag within the backpack, dilaudid pills, 100 ml of GHB, 50 shotgun shells, 73 rounds of 9 mm ammo and 10 long gun rifle rounds. The handgun, the police report said, had its serial number filed off. At the time of his arrest Hardenstine had a lifetime prohibition for owning and possessing firearms.

Hardenstine was also arrested on July 18 after RCMP observed a red Mazda driving at a high rate of speed. Crown counsel said the Mazda, driven by Hardenstine, forced several vehicles off the road. Once arrested Hardenstine was found a small amount of cocaine and methamphetamine on his person. Crown counsel was asking for a total of 42 months in federal prison while defence was asking for 36 months.

Hardenstine told the court he was addicted to drugs and had the weapons for protection. On Monday defence council, Maxwell, said Hardenstine was opposed to the version of the events RCMP gave with regards to the pursuit. Hardenstine claims RCMP collided with him on his motorcycle in front of his residence on purpose. The lawyer said he provided Hardenstine with the paperwork to file a complaint on the officers.

Now that the sentencing has been interrupted because of Hardenstine's disagreement with the prepared statement of facts before the judge, the file will returned to the trial co-ordinator on Monday to fix a date to decide if Maxwell can be taken off the record as Hardenstine's lawyer. Hardenstine asked the Crown if he put in an application to expunge his guilty pleas and got a lawyer who would take the matter to trial, but the judge said that if this is the road he wanted to go down it would have to be return to court to see if it passes a certain set of criteria that would allow him to take back his guilty pleas.

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