Leniency sought in sentence

By Susan Gamble, Brantford Expositor

SIMCOE -- A man caught up in an undercover investigation of a Mexican Mennonite drug ring should be spared harsh punishment for his first mistake, his defence attorney told Superior Court on Thursday.

In April, Johan Thiessen, 38, of Clear Creek, near Long Point, was found guilty by a jury of possession of cocaine and methamphetamine for the purpose of trafficking. He was arrested after police found almost six kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of methamphetamine at his Lakeshore Road home in 2014.

"Mr. Thiessen is a man of good character with stable employment and the support of his friends and family," Thiessen's lawyer, Geoff Snow, said at a sentencing hearing.

"His prospects for rehabilitation are high and his risk of re-offending is low."

But while two others have been convicted and sentenced to six years of penitentiary time in the case, Snow argued his client should receive less time, despite pleading not guilty and going through a trial.

Justice John Harper reserved his decision until June 26.

Snow also said that the judge should not hold against Thiessen that the man continues to maintain his innocence.

"He has said he does not agree to the guilty verdict but will accept it and be amenable to the direction of the sentencing court."

Snow brought in four character witnesses who testified to Thiessen's hard work ethic, simple living style and lack of any criminal record.

"The Crown theory was he served as the stash house and I submit he was trustworthy and helps people. It led to his downfall. There's no evidence he profited," said Now.

"His sentence should be as short as possible, in the low penitentiary range of two to three years."

But federal Crown prosecutor Jamie Pereira asked the judge for an eight-year sentence, saying the amount of drugs found at Thiessen's home had to be considered an aggravating factor.

"The potential value of the cocaine per kilo is $45,000 to $55,000 Canadian. And, if it was sold in smaller quantities it's more valuable -- $228,000 to $330,000 at the gram level. The methamphetamine would be $80 to $130 per gram so the sheer weight and value of the drugs is substantial."

Pereira also argued that, while Abraham Klassen was the orchestrator of the plan, and Franz Klassen was the "front end" of the operation selling to undercover officers, it was Thiessen who was the caretaker, providing a safe location to store the drugs and help others avoid getting caught by police.

Pereira said the Klassens both pleaded guilty.

Because of the possible connections to Mexican drug cartels and the large amounts of narcotics involved in area trafficking, area drug-enforcement authorities began an investigation, dubbed Project Greymouth, in 2012. Some Mexican Mennonites had been caught bringing large quantities of drugs across the Canadian border as they returned from visits to their home country.

On May 13, 2014, police executed a series of raids, collecting video and DNA evidence that implicated the Klassens and Thiessen.

The Crown had sought an eight year sentence for Franz Klassen, of Courtland, and a nine- to 10-year sentence for his cousin, Abraham Klassen, of Straffordville.

Each of the Klassens was sentenced by Justice Gethin Edward to six years in penitentiary.

Snow noted the Klassens were motivated by profit and greed, being found with thousands of dollars in their bank accounts that they admitted were proceeds of crime.

And, he said, the sentences for the Klassens involved additional charges than just the trafficking and possession so Thiessen's penalty should be less.

"There's no evidence that (Thiessen) did anything more than allow Abraham Klassen to keep drugs at his home at his home and come in to collect them."

The judge said he had to reserve his decision because the sentence is particularly complicated.

"I take this very seriously and any sentence I impose will have serious consequences on Mr. Thiessen and his family and friends."


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