Updated: Andrew Wakeling convicted in Minnesota

The U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota has given Lillooet resident Andrew Gordon Wakeling a lengthy sentence for drug smuggling.

Chief Judge John R. Tunheim sentenced Wakeling to 85 months in a U.S. federal prison on one count of conspiring to distribute 46,000 ecstasy tablets. Judge Tunheim dismissed a second count of aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute ecstasy.

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Ecstasy is an illegal amphetamine and hallucinogenic.

Wakeling pled guilty to the conspiracy charge in a plea bargain negotiated in February of this year. He was sentenced Nov. 9.

During the sentencing process, the U.S. Attorney argued that Wakeling should receive a sentence of between nine and 11 years. The U.S. Attorney said Wakeling’s co-defendant Rodney Godbout was sentenced to 96 months (eight years) and maintained that Wakeling should receive a longer sentence because he was above Godbout in the hierarchy of the conspiracy to smuggle the ecstasy across the border and has a more extensive criminal history than Godbout.

According to the U.S. Attorney, transcripts of intercepted phone conversations between Wakeling and Godbout “reveal three things. One, Wakeling is in charge of the drug inventory, as Godbout has to ask Wakeling how much ecstasy is available. Two, Wakeling also is in charge of setting the prices. Three, Wakeling is well aware that Godbout has recruited drug couriers to smuggle the ecstasy across the border. In fact, Wakeling was the first one to raise the subject of couriers in an intercepted call a week earlier.”

In another intercepted call between the two men on Apr. 3, 2006, Wakeling tells Godbout who the intended recipient of the drugs in the United States is and provides the customer’s telephone number:

The U.S. Attorney also stated, “It is telling that the first person Godbout contacted after learning that law enforcement had confiscated the drugs and arrested the couriers was his co-conspirator Andrew Wakeling. This is reflective of Wakeling’s leadership role in the conspiracy. If he were just a lowly go-between as he claims in his position pleading, it would not have been imperative for Godbout immediately to inform him of the seizure.”

Wakeling’s defence attorney Robert D. Richman sought a variance from the suggested guideline range of 108 to 135 months and requested a sentence of 36 months with credit for time served of seven months. That would have reduced his sentence to 29 months.

His client was in custody in Canada from Apr. 17, 2007 to Nov. 8, 2007, charged with the same offence. Eventually the charge was dismissed so that he could be extradited and prosecuted in the United States for his role in smuggling the drugs across the border from Ontario to Minnesota.

Wakeling has nine prior convictions in Canada dating back to 1984 for multiple burglaries, thefts, assault causing bodily harm, trafficking in a narcotic drug and obstructing a police officer.

Because foreign convictions do not count for criminal history purposes, and because of the age of those convictions, he received no criminal history points for them in his U.S. sentencing. “Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Wakeling has lived a life of crime,” Asst. U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Paulsen stated. “His participation in the present conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States is not out of character, even though he may contend otherwise.”

The Court was also told that, unlike Godbout, Wakeling violated the conditions of his pretrial release while awaiting extradition from Canada. Despite a release order confining him to his residence from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. each day with no travel outside the province of B.C., Wakeling violated the Court’s order and traveled across the country to New Brunswick. He then lied to his supervising release officer about his unauthorized travel. Wakeling’s bond was revoked and he served nearly six months in custody as a result of this violation of the conditions of his bond.

Defence attorney Richman argued that Wakeling was “at most an intermediary” between the drug supplier and Godbout. Richman said the details in Wakeling’s Position on Sentencing “establish that he supervised no one, had no decision-making authority and was nothing more than a go-between.”

Arguing in favour of a reduced sentence, Richman cited Wakeling’s “post-offense rehabilitation, the long time since the offense occurred, the age of his prior record, his minor role in the offense, the stringent release conditions to which he was subject for seven years in Canada, and the harsher conditions under which he will serve this sentence as an alien.”

He described Andrew Wakeling as a “very different man than he was nine years ago when this offense occurred,” adding, “This is compellingly borne out by Mr. Wakeling’s letter to the court.”

The letter was written July 25, 2015 from the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River, Minnesota.

In the letter to Judge Tunheim, Andrew Wakeling wrote that he “humbly accepts full responsibility for his actions” and apologizes for the role he played in the crime.

He says much has happened in his life since his extradition process began in 2007 – “some positive but many tragic. Even at what should have been some of the happiest moments of my life, there has been a heavy shadow lurking over them due to my past transgressions.”

He said it breaks his heart that he can’t see his six-year-old grandson any more. Other tragedies he mentions are the death of his mother and the tragic death of a “very close” friend on Feb. 10 of this year. He does not name the friend but says he was a “gentleman who lived with us for over 20 years, watching my children grow up.”

Wakeling wrote that since his arrest, he has become “a productive member of the community in which I live.” He also promises that because of his desire to be there for his family, “I will never break the law again.”

In asking for a reduced sentence, Richman submitted letters of support from Wakeling’s wife Ann and three Lillooet residents, Pat and Mary St. Dennis and Kevin Taylor. Richman said, “Several themes come through these letters consistently: Mr. Wakeling is a generous man, one always willing to help others, he is a loving father, grandfather and husband and he is a man of his word. Mr. Taylor, the former mayor, notes that Mr. Wakeling always manages to employ several people, which helps the economy of the small town.”

Wakeling fought his extradition to the U.S. for seven years. He challenged the wiretap evidence gathered against him, which was obtained with the assistance of the RCMP. He pursued the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, asserting that the police violated his charter rights, which protect against unlawful search and seizure.

The Supreme Court ruled in a split decision in November 2014 that Wakeling’s rights were not violated when the RCMP handed over the results of wiretaps to U.S. authorities.

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