Article by Harold Carmichael, Sudbury Star
A former Niagara Falls man charged a province-wide drug bust involving Greater Sudbury Police is headed to the penitentiary.
William Hunter, 31, of Welland pleaded guilty to possessing two loaded, prohibited firearms, one of which was a sawed-off shotgun in the Ontario Court of Justice in Greater Sudbury on Wednesday.
He was charged in 2019 as part of Project Skylark, a joint police operation that targetted outlaw biker gangs.
Justice Martin Lambert, accepting a joint sentencing submission from defence lawyer Nick Xynnis of Toronto and federal prosecutor Michael Jones of Ottawa, both of whom appeared via videolink, issued a three-year jail sentence, a 10-year weapons ban, and a DNA order.
“Clearly, Mr. Hunter, you were in possession of the firearms for nefarious purposes,” Lambert told Hunter, who was standing before him. “Hopefully, this will be a sufficient deterrent to you and, more importantly, to others that if you get involved in this type of business, there are some serious consequences.”
Lambert noted Hunter, who had been facing nine charges concerning, had entered guilty pleas and a limited criminal record.
Since Hunter had been in custody for 76 days before being granted bail in mid-October of 2019, he received pre-trial custody credit of 114 days. That leaves him with 981 days in custody left to serve.
The court heard that on Aug. 1, 2019 (the day Project Skylark concluded), police officers executing a search warrant at Hunter’s Niagara Falls residence found a sawed-off, loaded Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock handgun. The shotgun was found to be loaded with five shells while the handgun had six bullets in the clip. Both firearms are prohibited weapons.
In his sentencing submission, Xynnis said Hunter has spent most of his life in the Niagara Falls area and is now living in Welland. He said Hunter, who is a carpenter by trade, had been using the two firearms primarily for target practice on his property.
Xynnis added a preliminary hearing had not been held and Hunter agreed to enter guilty pleas one year ago, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed things.
Hunter is the latest individual to resolve his Project Skylark charges, all of which are being dealt with at the Sudbury Courthouse.
Last December, Brandon Tupling, 34, of Orleans, near Ottawa, received a six-year penitentiary sentence after pleading guilty to cocaine possession for the purpose of trafficking, fentanyl possession for the purpose of trafficking, and procuring, also known as human trafficking.
Keith Earle, 33, of Niagara Falls, entered guilty pleas to several of his 21 charges back on Aug. 26 and was to have been sentenced Jan. 5. Earle, along with Tupling, were both arrested in Greater Sudbury.
The sentencing did not happen because reports to help with sentencing are not ready.
Earle is in custody at the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold. His charges included drug-related offences, exploitation, and procuring.
A new sentencing date of March 24 for Earle was set.
Joshua Khosrowkhani, a full-patched Hells Angels Nomad chapter member from Ottawa who pleaded guilty in late July to a cocaine charge, will be sentenced on Feb. 11.
The court heard that on Aug. 1, 2019, a search warrant executed at Khosrowkhani’s Ottawa home turned up cocaine, MDMA (an amphetamine derivative), cannabis marijuana, cannabis edibles, other cannabis products, and $10,500 in cash.