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Kelowna  

Had dealer left gang life?

UPDATE: 5 p.m.

Donahugh McWhirter told the court he had never thought about the possibility of missing his daughter's graduation or not being around to teach her to drive when he made what he calls “some really bad choices” more than three years ago.

The Crown and defence wrapped up their sentencing submissions Tuesday after McWhirter pleaded guilty in February to two counts of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and unlawfully possessing guns while he was prohibited.

While the Crown is seeking an eight-year sentence for the man police called a “veteran” Independent Soldier gang member, McWhirter's defence argued a sentence between two and four years would be appropriate.

McWhirter told Justice Davies he has made “a lot of changes in the past three years,” including moving away from Kelowna to “start fresh.”

“As far as my family goes, they're the most important thing to me. I started spending every Sunday with my sister and nephew and my girlfriend and my daughter,” he told the court.

His voice began to crack when he talked about a conversation he had with his daughter.

“My daughter, what she said to me was heartbreaking,” he said. “She goes, she wants me to be there for her, for me to teach her how to drive. And I said, I didn't think about that when I made these bad decisions, or the fact that I may not be there for her grad.”

McWhirter said “all this started” with his incarceration in 2012 for a domestic assault conviction from a 2010 incident.

“Going to jail and getting out of jail and having nothing to do and knowing all the people that I met in jail and then being out on the street with no employment,” he said. “I grew up (in Kelowna), I know everybody, and that was probably the best decision I made was to leave Kelowna.”

While McWhirter expected to be sentenced this week, Justice Davies reserved his judgement until June 29. McWhirter remains out of custody on bail.


ORIGINAL: 2:20 p.m.

Despite pleading guilty to several drug and weapons charges in February, a man police have described as a “veteran” gang member says he was no longer a gang member when he was dealing the drugs, and the boxes of Independent Soldiers clothing in his house were simply “memorabilia.”

Police pulled over Donahugh McWhirter and his girlfriend Brittany Stinn near Merritt Nov. 4, 2014, after surveilling them for a year. They found MDMA and cocaine in the trunk. Three months later, police raided their Lake Country home and found several firearms and boxes of clothes with the gang logo.

At the time of the raid, the RCMP's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said the Independent Soldiers were recruiting new members in the Okanagan for a planned resurgence.

During the second day of McWhirter's three-day sentencing hearing on Tuesday, defence lawyer Chandra Corriveau admitted McWhirter was "historically associated" with the gang, but that he no longer was at the time of the charges.

The Crown is not alleging McWhirter was dealing drugs for the Independent Soldiers, gang affiliation can be an aggravating factor in sentencing.

In 2014, an informant told police McWhirter was “taking over” the Independent Soldiers gang.

On Oct. 20, 2014, police witnessed McWhirter meet with “10 to 14 Independent Soldiers or associates” at Rusty's Pub in Kelowna. After leaving, two of the people he had met with were pulled over and found with five ounces of methamphetamine.

The Crown says McWhirter was travelling to the Lower Mainland from the Okanagan several times a month, supplying street-level dealers in Kelowna with drugs.

Corriveau said McWhirter was planning on getting rid of the IS clothes and firearms found in his home.

Turning the guns over to police may have had legal consequences because of his alleged gang ties, and throwing the clothing in the garbage could have had it end up in the wrong hands.

“You certainly can't donate them, what do you do with them?” Corriveau said.

The Crown is seeking an eight-year sentence for the two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of a shotgun and rifle while he was prohibited.

Charges against Stinn are expected to be dropped by the Crown at the conclusion of McWhirter's sentencing.

Justice Davies is expected to sentence McWhirter Wednesday.



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