Family members lined up behind the defendant box single file, to embrace William Milton Barnes one last time before he was taken into custody after being sentenced to nine years in jail for a cross-border drug smuggling operation.
The 52-year-old father of two pleaded guilty to four out of 11 charges against him. The charges were laid after a joint Canada-U.S. investigation lead to the seizure of guns and large amounts of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
On Jan. 31, Crown and defence counsel made their submissions for sentencing to Justice Robert Punnett in B.C. Supreme Court. Crown lawyer Dave Hartney said the chance of Barnes re-offending was remote, adding that the nine-year sentence was “as much of a break for Mr. Barnes as the Crown is able to afford him.”
Barnes was a master marine technician who started an oceanside business in Victoria in 1999. He was in financial trouble when he was caught smuggling $4 million worth of drugs from the U.S. into the south coast of the Island.
Upon searching his Saanich home, police discovered cash, firearms and even more drugs. Police seized more than 55 kilograms of cocaine, 47 kilograms of methamphetamine, one kilogram of heroin, 15 firearms, $150,000 in cash, and a large-capacity magazine. They also seized two high-speed boats.
“While I appreciate the next years will be difficult for you and your family, you have the ability to emerge at the end of your sentence and resume a positive role with your family and your community,” said Punnett after delivering Barnes’ sentence, adding that he would recommend early parole be considered.
At the sentencing hearing in January, defence lawyer David Milburn said his client had only been acting as a courier and was minimally involved in the drug operation. He said Barnes had already “lost much” including his business and reputation.
“He’s let his entire family down,” Milburn said. “And he was cooperative and compliant from the outset.”
— With files from Nina Grossman and Katya Slepian