Multiple charges reduced in deal

Penticton man handed a $1,000 fine after plea bargain results in 16 weapons charges being stayed

A Penticton man scheduled for trial on 18 drug and gun charges has plea-bargained his way to a $1,000 fine.

James Dean Matthew, 25, was charged with 16 counts of unsafe storage of a firearm and single counts of possession of a dangerous weapon and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. The charges stemmed from a December 2010 police raid on his home.

Just as the trial was set to begin Tuesday, Crown counsel Clarke Burnett told provincial court Judge Anne Wallace that new information came to light that would make the case “quite difficult” to prosecute. He urged her to instead accept guilty pleas to the lesser offence of simple possession of marijuana and a single count of unsafe storage of a firearm.

Burnett told the court that the local RCMP’s drug squad was acting on a tip when it executed a search warrant at Matthew’s home. Inside, officers found 35.9 grams of pot in a jar and baggie. They also recovered “a full host of weapons,” Burnett said, including handguns and rifles, some stored in an unlocked cabinet and others in a dresser drawer and unlocked cases.

Matthew wasn’t there for the raid, but his home was locked and the weapons were properly licensed, Burnett said, so “it’s not as serious as it could have been.”

In justifying the plea bargain, the Crown counsellor also said evidence emerged that the marijuana “could have been utilized for personal use.”

Defence counsel Mike Smith told the court his client, who works at a foundry, was in the process of cleaning some of the guns when he had to rush out to meet a friend, which is why the firearms weren’t stored correctly.

Smith told the court his client is “just one of those people … who likes guns.”

Judge Wallace accepted the two guilty pleas and assessed a $500 fine on each count. The Crown stayed the other 16 counts.