Penticton courthouse.

Penticton courthouse.

Drug debt assault nets jail

A Penticton man considered a “career criminal” received a two year sentence for assaulting a woman while trying to collect a drug debt.

A Penticton man considered a “career criminal” received a two year sentence for assaulting a woman while trying to collect a drug debt.

Michael Gaines will remain in jail for 350 days after receiving credit for the 17 months he served while awaiting trial. He pleaded guilty to break and enter, uttering threats and assault.

Crown counsel Kurt Froehlich told the court that Gaines broke into a residence on March 8, 2014, where the victim who owed him $100 for methamphetamine lived with her 80 year old mother. Gaines pushed his way through the front door, grabbed the woman by her hair and dragged her around the house. He also threatened to injure or slit her throat if she made any noise.

“These are serious offences for someone who has a horrendous criminal record to be quite frank,” said Justice Alison Beames.

A trial was scheduled to be held in Penticton Supreme Court on Monday, but Gaines pleaded guilty to the three charges the day prior. Crown counsel and defence, in a joint submission, both agreed charges of sexual assault and two counts of robbery would be stayed because of challenges the Crown would have in proving the allegations.

Although there was no victim impact statement from the woman (whose name is being withheld because of the sexual assault charge), Froehlich said her statements to the police detail that she was left traumatized by the incident, “destroying her feeling of safety.”

During the sentencing the court heard Gaines has a total of 34 prior convictions including robbery, unlawful confinement and assault with a firearm. Gaines was also on probation when he committed the offences before the court.

Defence Ray Dieno said Gaines is a father of four that had a turbulent upbringing, including being estranged from his whole family who are dealing with substance abuse. He said Gaines was involved in the drug trade, but alcohol was his issue. Speaking on behalf of his client, Dieno said the man is tired of living a criminal lifestyle and realizes if he was found guilty of all the charges put before the court it would have meant a very serious jail sentence. He explained that Gaines had been drinking heavily at a nightclub leading up to the assault and his intoxication led to the “foolish, stupid decision to go collect on a drug debt.”

“He has had a very good record in custody. When he is not under the influence he is very polite, very sociable and a very respected individual,” said Dieno.

Gaines was also ordered two years probation with conditions including no contact with the victim and to abstain from the use of alcohol.