Well-known Chilliwack gangster Clayton Archie Eheler and associate Mathew Jordan Thiessen who were convicted of cocaine trafficking last year will not have their convictions overturned because of the length of time the case took to go through the courts.
Provincial court Judge Richard Browning rejected a Section 11b Charter application by Eheler and Thiessen in court on Jan. 30.
|Mathew Thiessen was convicted along with Clayton Eheler for cocaine trafficking in 2018. (File)|
The two had argued their Charter rights were violated because the case took more than 30 months from arraignment to conviction. Under the so-called Jordan framework – referring to the case of R v Jordan from 2016 – the presumptive ceiling of time a case should take in provincial court is 18 months. For Supreme court that’s 30 months.
Browning was left to decide how much time should be deducted from the 30 months and 17 days the case took from December 2015 to conviction on June 18, 2018 in provincial court in Chilliwack.
Eheler has a lengthy criminal history and is a former associate of the Bacon brothers, according to Postmedia crime reporter Kim Bolan. Eheler’s brother was 25-year-old Zacharia Nicholli Cross, victim of the second of three homicides in Chilliwack in 2018.
The case goes back to August 2014 when the province’s anti-gang task force, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC) starting looking into the Chilliwack-based crime cell’s drug distribution network.
In March 2015, the CFSEU-BC announced the seizure of cash, weapons, and more than $5 million worth of fentanyl, cocaine, crystal meth and other drugs and cutting agents. The seizures were as a result of search warrants conducted on residences in the 45500-block of McIntosh Drive, the 8800-block of Nowell Street, and various storage lockers.
CFSEU-BC believed the Chilliwack-based crime cell operated the overwhelming majority of their alleged drug trafficking activities in cities and towns from Williams Lake to as far north as Fort St John and Dawson Creek.
“Evidence also suggests that they have supplied the local Chilliwack drug markets.,” according to a CFSEU-BC press release.
In total, eight men were charged with various offences for the above crimes, but the convictions and subsequent Charter application Judge Browning decided upon on Jan. 30 related to single convictions to Eheler and Thiessen connected to a search of a Brett Avenue apartment where 7.9 kilograms of cocaine, 1.25 kilograms of crack cocaine, and several kilograms of cutting agents were found.
They were arraigned on that matter on Dec. 8, 2015 and for nearly three years the case wound itself slowly through provincial court, a time frame that included multiple voir dires for alleged Charter breaches and an application for a mistrial.
A third individual first charged, Raymond Morissey, was not convicted in the case and it was his lawyer who brought forward two unsuccessful Charter applications alleging unreasonable searches of the apartment he legally rented out.
In a 45-minute decision read in courtroom 204, Judge Browning outlined all the court dates over the course of the trial including the applications made by the accused. Of the 30 months and 17 days, Browning was only able to attribute one month directly to defence delay. That left Crown to rebut with “exceptional circumstances,” another means by which time of trial can be deleted from the total time.
Defence argued the trial was not particularly complex, nor where there any “discrete events” outlining exceptional circumstances. Crown disagreed as did Browning.
“In my view, the complexity was manifest from the beginning to the end of the trial,” he said.
As examples of the complexity he pointed to 18,000 pages of disclosure and 59 police officer witnesses listed on the original list, not all of whom testified at trial. In addition, there were multiple accused and multiple applications requiring preparation and delays.
After all his calculations, Browning added up a further 12 months and seven days to be subtracted from the total trial time, in addition to the one month of defence delay. That meant the trial time was left at 17 months, 10 days, just below the presumptive ceiling outlined in Jordan.
“I dismiss the application of Mr. Eheler and Mr. Thiessen,” Browning ruled.
The case was put over until Feb. 5 to schedule a date for sentencing.