Man facing four years for “vigilante justice” over grow-op money

“Vigilante justice” over a marijuana grow-op may send South Okanagan man to jail

The man whose lawyer called a South Okanagan break and enter and assault an attempt at “vigilante justice” over a marijuana grow-op may face up to four years in jail. Bryce Michael Williamson, 28, pleaded guilty to multiple charges including a break and enter and assault. His sentencing began March 16 in Penticton Provincial Court.

In 2015, Williamson had some involvment with a legal marijuana grow operation with Richard Stagg when Crown said the business relationship soured.

Defence counsel James Pennington called the legal grow-op a “license to print money,” yet the business was failing.

Williamson was gainfully employed with Geotech drilling at the time. He put his own money into the grow-op, which his granfather was involved in with Stagg. Pennington said a crop went missing along with $20,000 of equipment and Williamson was intent on removing Stagg from the business.

Pennington said Williamson was trying to salvage the business and his grandfather’s investment.

“What Mr. Williamson is really guilty of, and he’s admitted it, is in effect vigilante justice. He took the law into his own hands,” Pennington said.

Stagg was in Alberta on a holiday when he recieved a call in early December 2015 from Williamson who told Stagg he “was dead,” and accused Stagg of stealing his grandfather’s money, asking for a large sum of money. Williamson said people would be coming to his house to assault him in front of his children.

While Stagg was away on holidays he asked his father to look after his residence. On Dec. 26, 2015 Stagg was informed by his father over the phone that the house had been broken into and ransacked. A jewel box and a safe were missing from the residence. Stagg asked his father to return and check on the garage later that day.

While checking on the residence for the second time, Stagg’s father was confronted by Williamson, who was holding a large knife. Stagg’s father was knocked to the ground and Williamson held a knife to his head, telling him he was going to kill him and his family.

Stagg’s father was able to his escape out of the house and into his vehicle.

RCMP responded to the break in at the residence on Road 2 in Oliver where Williamson was located by the front door of the house. He ran into the back yard and police were able to corner him in the yard. Williamson was found in posession of multiple keys and had a knife in a sheath on his belt.

While being taken into custody Williamson told officers he “just wanted to get what was owed to him.”

Williamson was released on a promise to appear in court on Dec. 27, 2015.

Stagg’s rental business in Osoyoos had also been broken into, which was reported on Jan. 5, 2016. RCMP notified Stagg later that day someone had attempted to cash checks with his name on them at the Money Mart in Rutland.

Williamson was arrested again after unsuccesfully attempting to cash two checks and multiple pieces of jewellery were located by RCMP in a vehicle he was found in. The property matched some of that stolen during the earlier break and enter.

Williamson was arrested and released again on a promise to appear. On Feb. 11, 2016 Williamson failed to report as per his conditions of release and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

While driving on Highway 33 in Kelowna on May 27, Williamson was pulled over just after 1 a.m. and gave the officer the wrong name. Williamson was a prohibited driver and arrested on a warrant. He has been in custody since.

Williamson, who has no prior record, has 441 days pre-trial custody credit, serving 294 days in custody where he remains today.

Crown counsel Kurt Froehlich requested a sentence of nearly 4.5 years, while Pennington submitted a suspended sentence of two years, noting his client was not “getting off scott free,” should he recieve that sentence.

“I’d like to say how embarrassed I truly am for my actions,” Williamson said. “There are better ways I could have dealt with my problems and issues that were happening at the time. For starters I could have contacted the police, gathered evidence, got a lawyer and asked for legal advice on how to handle the situation.”

Judge Meg Shaw adjourned her descision on Williamson’s sentence to the judicial case manager to set a date.