Federal time is what a trio of South Okanagan people were given on Friday at the Penticton courthouse for the kidnapping and assault of an Oliver man.
Nicolette Miller and her common-law partner Leonard Thompson received four-and-a-half years of jail time while Miller’s son, Andrew Miller, received three years for the incident a jury found them guilty of in April.
Crown counsel Catherine Crockett painted the picture of Nicolette Miller being the ringleader in the series of events that occurred on Feb. 28, 2009 that led the group to kidnap admitted drug dealer Frank Guenther in Oliver behind the Royal Bank and transport him to Pyramid Park beach near Summerland. At Pyramid Park they made him strip and delivered him to two men who assaulted Guenther and dragged him to Okanagan Lake. Guenther swam out in the icy water as a last ditch attempt to save himself. He testified that people from shore threw rocks at him, and when he believed the group left and it was safe to return to shore he ran to Highway 97 to flag down a driver for help. Guenther’s injuries from both the assault during the drive and at Pyramid Park ranged from scratches and open wounds to bruises, broken ribs and eight broken teeth.
Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes dismissed the notion that Nicolette was the sole instigator that evening, giving her partner Thompson an equal amount of jail time for playing a main role in the series of events. Holmes said it was Nicolette’s trickery that enticed Guenther to meet up with the group when she phoned him pretending to be a woman Guenther had a romantic interest in and arranged for them to meet. The judge said Andrew had no involvement in the planning of the incident and less involvement, according to evidence heard, of the assault. Holmes also stated that all three had, in varying degrees, assaulted Guenther during the drive from Oliver to the Thompson ranch located south of Vaseux Lake, where they switched vehicles, and later during the drive out to Pyramid Park. Evidence was given during the trial that Nicolette told Guenther it was going to be “the worst day of his life,” and if the men they were meeting (who were never identified during the trial) came by boat he wouldn’t make it through the night. The court also heard evidence that Thompson suggested he was hired by the unknown men to deliver Guenther to them.
“I am very sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I am ashamed,” Nicolette told the court on Friday, adding it was her addiction to drugs that led her to the wrong choices. “I do have remorse for Frank Guenther. I never knew what was going to happen to Frank. I don’t wish to cause harm to anyone.”
The judge said the jury dismissed the defence’s case that the trio had simply offered Guenther a ride to Pyramid Park to meet his supplier so he could re-load and then in turn sell them some crack cocaine. The jury concluded each of them understood they were delivering Guenther for a beating, as evidence had been presented during the trial that they knew Guenther had experienced some degree of violence the week prior because of an overdue drug debt. All three of the accused offered apologies either in person during the sentencing or by letter to the judge.
“I accept all three of the offenders regret that they let themselves do what they have done. They have brought shame to themselves and their families,” said Holmes.
The court stayed the charge of unlawful confinement or imprisonment that the jury also found the trio guilty of.