Taking back guilty plea

A man who pleaded guilty to producing hundreds of fake prescription pills containing an analogue of fentanyl in West Kelowna last February wants to withdraw his plea after getting new lab results back.

Leslie McCulloch was arrested in March 2016 after his business on Auburn Road and home were raided by police. Police said they found more than eight kilograms of suspected fentanyl powder, hundreds of fake prescription pills and two industrial pill presses at McCulloch's auto restoration shop.

McCulloch pleaded guilty on Feb. 22, 2017 to production of an analogue of fentanyl, after spending almost a year in custody, but he was released on bail to allow him to “get his affairs in order.”

After securing a new lawyer in May, McCulloch pushed to have a quantitative analysis done on the seized drugs, to determine the exact quantity of drugs in the sample.

McCulloch says the recent results show there were just over four grams of acetylfentanyl found in the pills and powder, while the large majority contained caffeine and a binding agent.

Because of the recent results, McCulloch says he has asked the Crown to agree to a sentence of just time served, but he says the Crown refused.

“We put in an application to strike my plea, so we're reversing my plea and setting it for trial,” McCulloch said. “Pretty much we're starting from scratch again.”

Crown prosecutor Clarke Burnett says McCulloch will have to convince the court to allow him to change his plea, which he says is rare if the plea was made with the counsel of a lawyer, which McCulloch had at the time.

In August, prior to the recent lab findings, Burnett told Justice Jim Threlfall they'd be seeking a sentence “north of 10 years.”

From the Crown's perspective, the purity of the seized drugs shouldn't affect the length of the sentence, according to Burnett. 

“The defence may try and suggest otherwise,” he added.

McCulloch will be back in court on Nov. 30 to schedule a date for the application to withdraw his guilty plea.

The Crown had planned to drop charges against Rebekka White, McCulloch's co-accused in the case, once McCulloch's sentencing was complete.

McCulloch doesn't know if the charges against White will still be dropped if he revokes his guilty plea, but he maintains she “had nothing to do with it.”

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